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ASA bans anti-fracking ad

Complaint by pro-fracking peer upheld by watchdog accused of bias
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Greenpeace UK has dismissed as ‘baseless, biased, and bonkers’ a decision by the advertising watchdog to ban an anti-fracking ad on the basis that David Cameron would disagree with it.

Ruling on a complaint by pro-fracking peer Lord Lipsey, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has told Greenpeace UK to withdraw a newspaper ad stating: ‘Experts agree – [fracking] won’t cut our energy bills’.

To back up its statement Greenpeace UK submitted to the ASA opinions from 22 energy experts including the energy secretary, leading academics and even three separate spokespeople from fracking firm Cuadrilla.

Only evidence is PM’s opinion

The authority ruled the ad was misleading in suggesting there is a consensus among pundits – but was only able to quote the Prime Minister’s opinion as evidence.

The ASA refused Greenpeace’s challenge to provide any evidence – besides Cameron’s views – to justify its ruling, claiming the onus of proving or disproving the statement is on Greenpeace.

A biased council?

Greenpeace has also questioned the impartiality of the ASA council, the body deciding whether ads have breached advertising rules. Its chair, Chris Smith, has a second job as head of the Shale Task Force, a lobby group funded by fracking firms including Cuadrilla, Centrica and Total.

The complainant, Lord Lipsey, is not only a former member of the ASA council but also sits on the House of Lords economic affairs committee, which published a report last year calling for fracking to be made a national priority.

‘An authority led by a fracking advocate has ruled in favour of a pro-fracking Lord merely on the basis of the opinion of an avowedly pro-fracking prime minister. This decision is baseless, biased, and frankly bonkers. We quoted 22 different expert opinions to back up our statement that fracking won’t bring down bills. The ASA could only find shale enthusiast David Cameron to defend the opposite view.

‘This ruling also sets a very dangerous precedent. The same perverse logic could be used to ban statements about evolution or climate change on the basis that someone somewhere disagrees with the mainstream view. We can’t allow the ASA to be used as a kangaroo court to muzzle dissenting voices on controversial issues like fracking.’

Louise Hutchins, Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner

Fracking and energy prices

Many energy experts have dismissed the idea that fracking in the UK will bring down energy prices.

The two main arguments are that extraction costs in the UK are likely to be much higher than in the US, meaning that the industry requires higher gas prices to be able to make a profit.

Unlike the US, the UK is part of a wider European market which means that shale gas, like North Sea gas, will be sold to the highest bidder – something even former Cuadrilla chair Lord Brown was forced to acknowledge.

Click here to find out more about why fracking and why it isn’t the solution to our energy needs.

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