Skip to content

Fracking scare stories condemned by watchdog

September 26, 2016

By Paul Homewood 




From the Times:


A green campaign group made a series of misleading claims about the health and environmental impacts of fracking, according to a damning draft ruling by the advertising watchdog.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) failed to substantiate claims that fracking could cause cancer, contaminate water supplies, increase asthma rates and send house prices plummeting, the Advertising Standards Authority says.

Scientists accused the group of scaremongering after it made the claims in thousands of copies of a leaflet asking for donations to help stop fracking. Cuadrilla, which wants to frack in Lancashire, and the Reverend Michael Roberts, a retired vicar, complained to the ASA about the leaflet last year.

The ASA produced its draft ruling in July but has been forced to delay sending it to its council for approval because FoE has repeatedly requested more time to challenge its findings.

The draft upholds the complaints against FoE on all four grounds, finding in each case that the group had breached the ASA’s code by making misleading statements that it had failed to substantiate.


The draft rejects FoE’s attempt to use evidence from the US to justify its claims about the threat to health and water supplies. It notes that there are differences between the way fracking is regulated in the US and UK, with the Environment Agency imposing strict controls here on chemicals used and the protection of water supplies.

On the claims about asthma, the advertising authority found that FoE had based them on a report from the US that had not found a causal relationship between the disease and fracking.

On house prices, the draft criticises FoE for using an “anecdotal quote” from a newspaper article to help justify its claim that prices would plummet.

The draft concludes: “The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Friends of the Earth Trust Ltd not to make claims about the likely effects of fracking on the health of local populations, drinking water, or property prices in the absence of adequate evidence.”

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said: “The ASA undertook a thorough review of Friends of the Earth’s outlandish claims . . . and found every one incorrect. Since then FoE has sought to frustrate the ASA process and delay these findings being made public. It spreads untruths and offers no practical solutions to the very real energy problems facing the UK. It should openly admit its mistakes and stop irresponsibly taking the public’s money by scaring them with misleading claims.”

Donna Hume, an FoE campaigner, said: “This is just the ASA’s draft decision which we are in the process of refuting . . . The evidence against fracking is clear. In response to this draft decision we supplied further evidence to the ASA, with over 100 references, to show that fracking is unproven and still poses too many risks.”

In May, Third Energy received permission to frack an existing well in North Yorkshire — the first approval of the technique since it was temporarily banned in 2011 after causing two small earthquakes in Lancashire. FoE has challenged the approval in a judicial review which will be heard by the High Court in November. The government is due to decide by October 6 whether to overrule Lancashire County Council, which last year rejected two fracking applications by Cuadrilla.

Last week the ASA overturned a decision to ban a Greenpeace advert which stated: “Experts agree — [fracking] won’t cut our energy bills.” The ASA admitted it had been wrong to conclude the advert was misleading.

FoE tried to justify the claim that fracking chemicals could cause cancer by saying that it involved sand, which contained silica, “a known carcinogen”.

Paul Younger, a professor of energy engineering at the University of Glasgow, said at the time that FoE’s claims were nonsense. “Sand is silica. It’s exactly the same stuff that’s on every sandy beach. What are they proposing? That we treat all beaches as contaminated land and pave them over?”


Claims and counterclaims

Friends of the Earth claim
: Fracking fluid containing “a toxic cocktail of chemicals . . . could end up in your drinking water”.

Advertising Standards Agency response in draft ruling:
“Public Health England considered the potential impact on public drinking water supplies was minimal. The Environment Agency would not permit the use of hazardous substances . . . where they might enter groundwater.”

FoE: “Studies have shown that 25 per cent of fracking chemicals could cause cancer.”
FoE used a US-based study but “many chemicals allowed in the US would not be permitted in the UK. We understood that hazardous chemicals would not be permitted in fracking in the UK, and that chemicals approved for use must not cause pollution”.

FoE: “A hospital near a US fracking site has shown that asthma rates are three times higher than average.”
“The review on which FoE had based the claim . . . did not demonstrate that the fracking site was responsible for increases in asthma.”

FoE: Fracking causes “plummeting house prices”.
Evidence was not robust and included a survey of estate agents that was “anecdotal and did not indicate a rapid and significant fall”. 


The comments are nearly all pro fracking, and this one sums it up nicely:

I have been "dealing with" eco-activists in some shape or form for decades.

One needs to remember three things:

their version of the "facts" is always the correct one and admits of no dispute;

lying comes as naturally to them as breathing;

humanity in general comes a long way down their list of priorities, somewhere between worms and microbes and well below polar bears, bats, and great-crested newts.

Their opposition to fracking, as to fossil-fuel use and nuclear power, has nothing to do with saving the earth or improving the environment and everything to do with trying to coerce us back to their mythical golden age, conveniently forgetting that if we followed their advice we would be without any modern medicines and would be engaged throughout the 40 or so years if our miserable existence desperately trying to get enough food and fuel to see us through the day while fending off the attacks from the neighbouring village.

I can see Emma Thompson and Vivienne Westwood going for that lifestyle —–— not!

  1. Mark Hodgson permalink
    September 26, 2016 11:32 am

    Funnily enough, although the BBC ran plenty of stories around FoE’s original scare stories (and I acknowledge that, tucked away in the Lancashire section of their website, they did last year have a story about the complaint against FoE’s misleading advertising) this doesn’t seem to have found it onto the BBC’s website. No doubt they’ll run a big piece on the World at One on Radio 4 instead to make up for the oversight…

    • CheshireRed permalink
      September 26, 2016 12:27 pm

      And the BBC’s coverage of this important ruling on their website is……….tumbleweed.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      September 26, 2016 1:08 pm

      Will Cuadrilla tackle the BBC next?

  2. John Halstead permalink
    September 26, 2016 11:43 am

    Thanks John

    I must say FoE and Greenpeace don’t carry much credibility, those organisations seem to be inhabited by brown bread and sandals hippies and left wing luvvies who haven’t a clue about really important issues.

    Also I don’t give much credit to people who complain about something without offering a reasonable alternative. Unfortunately I saw a lot of that at Foden Trucks.

    All the best


    • Gerry, England permalink
      September 26, 2016 12:44 pm

      The words ‘…about really important issues.’ are unnecessary – you were already correct.

  3. NeilC permalink
    September 26, 2016 11:53 am

    Gaining money by deception is surely breaking the law on fraud. Shouldn’t the ASA be obliged to pass their findings onto the police.

    It is about time FoE and Greenpeace were charged for their constant lies.

  4. September 26, 2016 11:54 am

    We get the drinking water contamination drivel here in WV. Also that fracking is causing earthquakes. Never mind that there are always earthquakes here, just not ones which people can feel. The WV Democrat Platform, among other nutty things, would do away with coal mining and all fracking. We are sitting on a wealth of both coal and natural gas. Last week at the Shale Insight Conference in Pittsburgh, Donald Trump was the keynote speaker. He brought common sense about human needs for energy and jobs coupled with his keen understanding of business. One of his goals is to use our coal, oil and natural gas to bring back manufacturing. Pittsburgh was once the “Steel City”. There were steel mills in WV also. Just that speech alone was enough to turn the “greenies” brown.

  5. Joe Public permalink
    September 26, 2016 12:33 pm

    The FoE allegation: “Studies have shown that 25 per cent of fracking chemicals could cause cancer.” demonstrates their absolute misunderstanding.

    APRIL 2011 was the list of chemicals (all) fracking fluids contained. It is in fact a list of all the chemicals any fracking fluid has at any time contained. i.e. during recipe experimentation.

    Click to access Hydraulic-Fracturing-Chemicals-2011-4-18.pdf

    Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist about the risk, look at your drinking water pipes at home / at work / in your chosen restaurant.

    99.9% (in the UK) will use copper pipework somewhere within the system.

    Copper is on that list – “Table 3. Chemicals Components of Concern: Carcinogens, SDWA-Regulated Chemicals, and Hazardous Air Pollutants”

    • Gerry, England permalink
      September 26, 2016 12:45 pm

      I wouldn’t be surprised if some still had lead piping.

  6. Newminster permalink
    September 26, 2016 12:47 pm

    Thank you for re-posting my comment. Saves me the the trouble!

    Trying to come to any sort of sane arrangement with eco-warriors is worse than fighting fog or herding cats. They will sit round a table and nod and agree with everything you say and then produce a press release which is diametrically opposed to everything you thought you had agreed.

    Most of them are in a world of their own and more than capable of holding at least two completely contradictory ideas in their heads at the same time. They will refuse to own a car but are happy to take two buses to get to Waitrose rather than shop at the local Tesco. Is it any wonder that they are fair game for the “professional” troublemakers — what Delingpole has succinctly called “watermelons’ — whose sole ambition is the disruption and if possible organised collapse of western civilisation?

  7. September 26, 2016 12:52 pm

    The Labour Party is going to ban fracking (when it can convince us that socialism works and we all vote for them) despite any logical reason for banning it and without offering any credible alternative – we’ll just have just clean energy.

    • September 26, 2016 12:53 pm

      I forgot the link

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      September 26, 2016 1:07 pm

      Of course, the SNP has already done so in Scotland. Not sure whether the Welsh Assembly has enough powers to do likewise, but in Ulster they have managed to put a stop to Tamboran’s plans in Fermanagh, while allowing the CAES project at Larne to proceed.

    • Joe Public permalink
      September 26, 2016 4:49 pm

      Bosworth’s a cheeky bugger. His headline:

      “Fracking supporters side-step ASA process before Lancashire decision”

      Effing FoE attempted to *delay* the report until after the Lancashire decision!

  8. AlecM permalink
    September 26, 2016 2:42 pm

    Looks to me as if the FoE are ripe for conversion to Islam.

    Tell whatever lies are necessary to control the UK and kill off the Kuffar.

  9. Ian_UK permalink
    September 26, 2016 10:24 pm

    There was (surprisingly) a very good defence of gas on the BBC TV news this evening (in a report on Labour’s promise to ban fracking) by an authority whose name and organisation escapes me, unfortunately. The BBC website somehow forgot to add this part in:

    The interviewee suggested that it would be decades before gas could be replaced by electricity for things like domestic heating and that the alternative to fracking would be an increased reliance on imports, cue the GMB response to the policy:

    “But Gary Smith, the GMB union’s Scotland secretary, said ruling out fracking was “madness”, saying the UK would be dependent on gas for decades.”

    Perhaps Andrew Neil will pick it up. This stupidity deserves to be challenged.

    • Joe Public permalink
      September 27, 2016 2:58 pm

      “The interviewee suggested that it would be decades before gas could be replaced by electricity for things like domestic heating”

      It’s unlikely there’ll be sufficient electricity infrastructure to meet the peak demand.

      Current peak electricity demand is ~58GW; adding space heating demand pushes the peak to ~350GW.

  10. September 27, 2016 9:21 am

    FoE is still the BBC’s first port of call for comments on fracking. There is still no mention by the BBC of the ASA report.
    Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “It is completely unacceptable to attempt to prop up Ineos’s petrochemicals plants on the back of human suffering and environmental destruction across the Atlantic.

    “The fact that Scottish public money is tied up in this project is disgraceful.

    “Setting aside the devastating local impacts of fracking, the climate consequences of extracting yet more fossil fuels are utterly disastrous.”

  11. Joe Public permalink
    September 27, 2016 2:47 pm

    The Register now has a piece:

    “Ordinary punters will get squat from smart meters, reckons report
    Small savings for us, big moolah for gas ‘n’ ‘leccy suppliers”

    A Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee “evidence check” of smart meters noted that “although the scale and durability of such savings is contested and it would appear that the rollout could alter consumption levels by 2–3 per cent.”

    DECC’s assessment of the cost savings, contained in the evidence check, found that overall consumers in the UK would save £4.3bn, while suppliers would save nearly £8bn by cutting site visits and reduced inquiries.

    Nick Hunn, CTO of WiFore Consulting, told the committee he was sceptical of the extent to which consumers will change their behaviour for a relatively modest financial reward, arguing that “£26 a year or 7p a day is not a big incentive”, and that “there are far cheaper ways of achieving savings”.

    • Joe Public permalink
      September 27, 2016 2:48 pm

      Oooops, wrong post! Apologies

    • September 27, 2016 4:22 pm

      I wonder where they get £4 bn from?

      The uk electric market is worth about £34 bn, of which about a third is domestic, say £10 bn.

      So 3% is only £300 million

  12. January 1, 2017 9:34 pm

    Reblogged this on Peddling and Scaling God and Darwin and commented:
    I reblog this as it deals with Friends of the Earth duplicitous programme over 5 years in Lancashire. I seem to be involved in all this

    I am not sure I’ll agree with all the other blogs


  1. U.K. Regulator: Activists’ Fracking Claims Not Backed up by Evidence

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: