PAUL Younger clearly feels passionately about fracking both as an engineer and a keen blunderbuss enthusiast obsessed with Valdimir Putin (“Fracking expert: Sturgeon playing into hands of Putin”, The Herald, May 11). He stresses the reliance on evidence-based research, although evidence-informed research may be the way to go when faced with significant data gaps and uncertainty. If BSE (mad cow disease) taught us nothing else, it is that we should be very cautious indeed about making absolute and categorical statements on safety when we may be ignorant of many important and often complex interacting factors.

For some of us researching fracking, a very different analysis exists. It is patently obvious that globally and within the UK there is no consensus on many of the short, middle and long-term risks posed by fracking, be they to public health, community wellbeing, house prices and local and national economies. Much research in these areas rather indicate real risks exist based on good evidence. There is, however, already a scientific consensus about the adverse effects of fossil fuel on global climate change with related cross-generational public health impacts. That in itself has persuaded some leading UK scientific researchers to oppose fracking.

There is an old Greek saying that states if all you have is a hammer, then everything you see is a nail. This would appear to apply to several UK engineers. Understandably, engineers look for engineering solutions to fracking problems and some are certain they can all be solved. Yet engineers and geologists for example from Ivy League universities in the United States contest that view and oppose fracking accordingly.

A recent UK Natural Environment Research Council /US research report in November, 2015 on potential environmental impacts of fracking identified a significant number of research gaps to be addressed. These included the need for improved monitoring and leak detection capabilities and the adoption of life cycle analysis which would pick up costs of fracking more fully and possibly downplay benefits. The report acknowledged a lack of understanding on the long-term human health impacts of fracking, shallow ground water risks, fracking fluid risks and waste water management. All these points in turn raise big questions about the costs of fracking and any country’s capacity to regulate the industry effectively.

So governments and their citizens are left with a choice. They can allow fracking with serious known and suspect risks that will contribute to very damaging global climate change. Or they can adopt a precautionary public health approach and reject fracking. This would be based on what we know already about fracking. The levels of uncertainty, it could be argued, do not justify choosing this energy option when far less hazardous ones are available. Being precautionary may also create many more green jobs and boost economies linked to the inevitable sunsetting of old hazardous energy industries, ensuring just transition for their workers.

Professor Andrew Watterson,

Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group,

School of Health Sciences, RG Bomont Building R3T11,

University of Stirling, Stirling.

IN the fracking debate, many in the Scottish political class are not being honest over the hard choices we face as a country.

The vast majority of Scots use gas to heat their homes and the chemicals industry, indeed much of our manufacturing industry, desperately needs access to gas.

We heat our homes using gas because gas is four times cheaper than electricity. The idea that the vast majority of Scots are going to switch to heating their homes with electricity whilst watching their bills go up fourfold is utter nonsense. We’d challenge any political party to seek election on a manifesto that commits the country to a fourfold increase in heating bills.

Much of our manufacturing industry uses gas because it is so much more affordable than other energy supplies. If the industry doesn’t have access to affordable energy it will simply be used as another reason to move production abroad. Would we want that for our petro-chemicals industry, a huge employer in Scotland and across the UK which uses gas as a feedstock - an industry that is absolutely essential to every aspect of modern life?

The fact is our diminishing gas reserves from the North Sea aren't of the quality the industry needs and that’s why we are starting to import shale gas from the United States. The reality is that we are going to be dependent on gas for many decades to come so we can heat our homes and sustain what is left of our manufacturing base.

We are already importing gas from regimes like Qatar and Russia. Sourcing the gas we need from rotten regimes and then carting it across oceans and continents is not good for security of supply and it is definitely is not good for the environment either.

It’s time for some honesty on fracking and our energy future.

Gary Smith,

GMB Scotland Secretary,

Fountain House, 1/3 Woodside Crescent, Glasgow.

FURTHER to my letter (May 9) on WWF’s continued promotion of windfarms and following our dash towards wind and the resulting parlous UK grid, it should be noted that the World Energy Council late last year, in a review on behalf of the UN, commented that the UK “faces significant challenges in securing its energy supply” and downgraded our energy equity rating to 30th in the world from eighth in 2013, advising that it “expects security to fall further” .

In this respect we are now in the company of several poorer third world nations.


Saviskaill, Langdales Avenue, Cumbernauld.