BBC misrepresents gas story to help ‘deniers’


2:36 pm - May 8th 2012

by Tim Fenton    


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No matter how cautiously the words are phrased, and in spite of a range of caveats, when a former minister mentions the subject of shale gas live on the BBC, the hacks’ antennae twitch to attention and those words are instantly spun.

And the Beeb’s own report hasn’t helped matters, as it has relayed the sentiments of Chris Smith, who is now head of the Environment Agency.

Smith, recently elevated to the Peerage, has given cautious support to the extraction of gas from shale, but is by no means cheerleading:

shale gas would be “potentially very beneficial for our energy needs … it could provide energy security … it could be affordable”…. It has to be drawn out of the ground effectively and safely

Smith has stressed that this

means worrying about the way in which the drilling takes places, it means worrying about making sure the methane is captured rather than discharged to the air and it means making sure that none of the contaminated water gets into the ground water that sometimes can fill our water supplies

He also talks of this being monitored and regulated “very rigorously. He also stressed that gas is still a fossil fuel, and that we have to develop carbon capture in the storage to enable us to reduce the greenhouse gas impact that it will have.

So if that’s a yes to fracking, it’s a very heavily qualified one. That degree of caution only increases the duty on media outlets not to get carried away.

But the Beeb has dropped the baton on the first changeover.

There it is in bold type. That’s not what the man said. But the example has been set, and the Maily Telegraph, home to such thoughtful and balanced luminaries as Christopher Booker and James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, has already amended the BBC original to simply “Environment Agency boss backs fracking”.

Indeed, the Beeb’s report has even been reported more or less verbatim by the so-called Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), a haven of climate change denialism, such is the coincidence with its agenda. It has been left to Jim Pickard at the FT Westminster Blog to sound a moderating note by pointing outEnvironment Agency chair not entirely sure on fracking”.

Pickard has it spot on. Chris Smith has made a less than unequivocal statement, and as the FT blog points out, he will tell of wider concerns in a speech later today. In the circumstances, the Beeb could, and should, have applied a little more thought before coming out with that headline, which has just been spun and churned by the usual suspects to make it look like a green light for fracking.

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About the author
Tim is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He blogs more frequently at Zelo Street
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Reader comments


I’ve posted a comment on the BBC page, pointing out that their claim about what Smith said is untrue, and linking to this page – if it survives the moderators.

Out of sheer modesty, I’d like to point out the original post on which this one was based:

http://zelo.tv/JndfmQ

And I’ll be updating it when there are the inevitable interventions from the likes of Delingpole pretending that this means he is right (again) and that everyone he calls a liar (anyone in the scientific mainstream) is wrong.

3. Pedantic Pete

Chris Smith has been a peer since 2005, so not ‘recently elevated to the Peerage’.

…………………and then we are expected to believe it was ‘farting’ dinosaurs that brought about their extinction.
Next they’ll be telling us that the re-launch of the Con Dems has been a huge success.
Does anybody believe anything published/broadcast by the media?

5. So Much For Subtlety

Smith, recently elevated to the Peerage, has given cautious support to the extraction of gas from shale, but is by no means cheerleading:

shale gas would be “potentially very beneficial for our energy needs … it could provide energy security … it could be affordable”…. It has to be drawn out of the ground effectively and safely

Chris Smith has a degree in English. He wrote a dissertation on Coleridge. If he is expressing some reservation here it is because he knows he knows f**k all about the technology and the science. Not that he has problems with fracking.

Smith has stressed that this

means worrying about the way in which the drilling takes places, it means worrying about making sure the methane is captured rather than discharged to the air and it means making sure that none of the contaminated water gets into the ground water that sometimes can fill our water supplies

He also talks of this being monitored and regulated “very rigorously.

Sure. So he is demanding that he is given more money, more power and more resources. This is a job ad, not a problem with fracking. Presumably his civil servant chums in the EPA wrote his briefs for him and they want more money, more power and more resources too. I doubt that Smith could spell methane on his own.

So if that’s a yes to fracking, it’s a very heavily qualified one. That degree of caution only increases the duty on media outlets not to get carried away.

No it isn’t. For the EPA and for someone like Smith, that is a ringing endorsement. He does not say the sky will fall. He does not over sell it. But he is generally positive. He is not blocking it. That is a yes to fracking along with a demand for a share of the goodies that will flow once the revenue starts to roll in. No more.

6. Thoughtcrim

Tim, I’m struggling to see the BBC piece as cheerleading. The third paragraph draws attention to the caveats, which are clearly explained in the body of the article.

If there is a lack of balance in the article, it stems from quoting Tony Bosworth of Friends of the Earth, without quoting any industry experts or pro-fracking commentators.

7. Thoughtcrim

I’m also disappointed to see the use of the “deniers” epithet, when fracking shows great promise in lowering our carbon emissions and reducing our reliance on coal.

I wonder how many anti-shale gas people would be happy to condemn Mrs Thatcher for not subsidising coal mines.

9. Reduced Salt

@5

“Chris Smith has a degree in English. He wrote a dissertation on Coleridge.[...]I doubt that Smith could spell methane on his own. ”

I R CONFUSED :O

We can’t criticise these highly informed people, when the only issue is that they haven’t been able to fully account for whether the risk is worthy of the financial rewards.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. BBC changes fracking story to help ‘deniers’ « The Free

    [...] BBC changes fracking story to help ‘deniers’ [...]

  2. Plymouth City UNISON

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  3. Chris Walker

    RT @LCPolitics “@sunny_hundal: BBC News misrepresents gas 'fracking' comments to help the gas industry lobby http://t.co/v4RIZ3Dt (icymi)”

  4. Chris Hillyer

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  5. Angus Carruthers

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  6. Darwin Franks

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  7. BPC

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  10. BevR

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  11. Eldred J Coke

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  12. Rob Yarham

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  13. Rattlecans

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  14. malcolm

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  15. McDave

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  16. Bliadhnaichean

    BBC News misrepresents gas 'fracking' comments to help the gas industry lobby http://t.co/AtTjhzUf (icymi)

  17. Sarah Lewis-Hammond

    BBC misrepresents gas story to help ‘deniers’ | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/HtGDkfDU via @libcon





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