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Friday, 16 October 2015

European Shale Gas and Oil Summit 2015 - Engagement and Local Opinion

Reporting from the European Shale Gas and Oil Summit 2015 - Day 2.

Yesterday there was great interest in a workshop concerned with trying to find what needs to be said about onshore oil and gas, and how and by whom (although not explicitly to whom!) Maybe that last omission was because it is so obvious - I hope so.

The points were made that shale gas engagement (usually opposition, but not necessarily so) is limited to the super local. That does not mean Councillor Joanne Bloggs who changes into the clothes of a super anti-fracking heroine behind the bike-sheds, but geographically. That is, opposition to a development is constrained to those very near the proposed development. For those living a few miles away, the issue feel remote, and remoteness in time also soothes the savage breast (after all the modern world gives us all lots of other stuff to worry about every day).

BritainThinks (vox pop out of the box) tells us that when people in a prospective shale gas area are asked what bothers them, shale gas is rarely mentioned spontaneously - jobs, housing and welfare are all to the forefront. Ironically, these are all things that the government says will benefit from shale gas development.

BritainThinks reports that their respondents:
1. Have no sense of the need for shale gas - the drivers.
2. Do not know where the government stands - despite Cameron's unquestioning support.
3. Do not know what the real risks and hazards in the UK are (although they are often expert in the reported hazards in the USA)

Overall, the UK is a nation of people for whom the advantages and risks of shale gas is nebulous at best.

Locals want to hear from people 'without their skin in the game', and scientists are by far the most trusted. Yet when did you last hear from one of us about shale gas. We have no funding to market our expertise, and if there was funding, it would have to be independent.

When did you last see a scientist on the BBC (other global news groups are available!) talking about shale gas. They 'balance' a panellist from industry with one diametrically opposed from an environmental NGO, which results is much drama but little communication of information and ideas to real people.

Oh, and by the way - there were no journalists apparent in the Public Engagement Workshop at the Summit here - Odd that, since the BBC has sent delegates!

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