IF you ever fancy being lynched at a public meeting, try telling your audience that what their area really needs is a good dose of fracking.
You should have heard the shrieks of outrage when I suggested this to a local crowd in Gloucestershire while recording a live BBC radio programme the other day.
It was as if I?셝 called for the whole village to be turned into a nuclear waste dump.
But it wasn?셳 their fault.
All over the country there are still millions of people who think fracking ??a harmless oil and gas-drilling process ??is a dirty word because they have been brainwashed by unscrupulous green campaign groups.
One of these groups, Friends of the Earth (FoE), has just had a severe rap across the knuckles from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for telling a pack of lies about fracking in one of its leaflets.
The leaflet claimed that fracking gives you cancer, contaminates water supplies, increases asthma rates and sends house prices plummeting.
But the ASA found that none of this is true.
No, fracking fluid doesn?셳 contain a ?쐔oxic cocktail of chemicals??that could poison your drinking water.
No, it doesn?셳 give you cancer ??because the chemicals it contains aren?셳 carcinogenic.
No, it won?셳 give you asthma. Claims by FoE that ?쏿 hospital near a US fracking site has shown that asthma rates are three times higher than average??turn out to be based on a flawed analysis of a review which proved no such thing.
As for the ?쐏lummeting house prices??claim, the ASA found it was based on nothing more than an unscientific survey of estate agents that was ?쏿necdotal and did not indicate a rapid and significant fall??
So why on earth did FoE think it could get away with such weapons-grade tosh?
Largely because up until now hardly anyone has bothered to stop it.
Instead of pouring cold water on such nonsense, the Government ??supposedly pro-fracking ??has been far too shy in taking on the green brigade, perhaps for fear of seeming nasty and uncaring.
Why was it left to the ASA (responding to a complaint by a retired vicar) to set the record straight?
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Why can?셳 the Department of Energy be more robust in praising Britain?셲 shale gas miracle which, thanks to the unfairly maligned technology of fracking, could create thousands of jobs and provide enough cheap, safe, abundant power for several generations?
This negligence has meant that for years the voices heard most loudly on fracking are those of the anti-capitalist protest brigade: The scaremongering green campaign groups; the posturing luvvies including Emma Thompson and Vivienne Westwood; the vote-grubbing politicians such as Jeremy Corbyn who has announced that if he gets into power (fat chance!) fracking will be banned and a gazillion more bat-chomping, bird-slicing eco-crucifixes will blight our hilltops instead.
There are two powerful interest groups opposed to fracking.
Over the years they have busily promoted a number of myths to frighten ordinary people into thinking fracking should be banned.
None of these stands up to scrutiny.
Aquifer pollution? After well over two million fracks across the US, not a single case of pollution by fracking fluid or methane gas has ever been recorded. Earthquakes? As a definitive survey by Durham University found, the seismic activity caused by fracking is on ?쐓uch a small scale that only geoscientists would be able to detect it??
Anyway, mining, geothermal activity and reservoir water storage causes more and bigger tremors.
Overuse of water? According to one popular eco-myth, towns in the US are being drained dry by fracking.
In fact, just 0.3 per cent of water use in the US is fracking-related. Farms are far greedier. As are golf courses.
Excessive methane release causing global warming? More unsubstantiated nonsense based on a flawed study by a biology professor with an axe to grind. Toxic chemicals? Most of fracking fluid ??99.51 per cent ??is just water and sand. The rest comprises 13 chemicals so unsinister that they can all be found under your kitchen sink, in your bathroom or garage.
What?셲 shocking is that these basic facts aren?셳 more widely known.
Fracking is the key to unlocking spectacular shale gas and oil reserves which could transform Britain?셲 fortunes as dramatically as North Sea oil did.
If the Government was doing its job, it would be shouting its praises to the rooftops, instead of leaving its dirty work to the Advertising Standards Authority.