COMMENT: Let's listen to all the fracking arguments
I honestly don't know how I feel about fracking - you hear a lot of horror reports of environment disaster in America, of landscapes laid bare and poisonous vapours spilling from the earth.
Fracking companies will, no doubt, say that these are historical issues, that huge advances have been made and that checks and measures in the UK would protect our communities from the worst of the ecological impact. There is also a legitimate business argument for shale extraction - that it will create a lot of jobs and it will plough a lot of money back into rundown areas. Plus, there is also a genuine need for us to provide fuel as other natural resources diminish, or have to be imported from an increasingly unstable world. The other argument, of course, is that we are relying on information from a certain point of view. We are told that reserves are diminishing, that coal streams are no longer ‘sustainable’, and that alternatives need to be sought. You could, of course, rephrase this as ‘getting the rest of the coal out of UK streams will cost the shareholders’ and therefore we’d much sooner just close everything down and import in the cheap stuff in from abroad. Fracking, we can assume, means big money - particularly if they are prepared to throw millions at the communities that it impacts on. But then, this is nothing new. Much of our region has had its coal taken out, its landscapes marred and its economy blighted for generations. What is different is that, in the case of coal, those who made the profit kept all of it. What I do know, however, is that there are a lot of arguments spinning around here, and we should listen to them all.