Here's something that really gets my whole herd of goats.

This is the original story from Bloomberg today

Natural gas from shale deposits won’t be developed fast enough in the U.K. to meet future energy needs, according to the University of Leicester.

Britain should cut its reliance on gas because prices are set to rise as demand increases from China and India, Mike Bradshaw, professor of geography at the university, will say today at a Royal Geographical Society conference in Edinburgh. Significant exploitation of shale resources won’t happen for “many years” because of logistical and environmental hurdles, he will say, according to an e-mailed statement from the society.

Bloomberg seem to be having a bad day as their UK branch is falling into the usual UK media bad habit of giving up journalism and taking up stenography, or in this case even worse: simply recycling press releases. That means that someone (preferably with a PhD) is quoted and whatever he/she says is printed unchallenged. Not even a  pretense at getting another view. Dr B's opinion is presented as unvarnished truth/ indisputable fact instead of personal opinion. Going back to the Bloomberg story, here is his opinion

“Shale gas is unlikely to be a game changer in the U.K.,” Bradshaw will say.

But what if wasn't even his opinion? This is what Bloomberg could have found out if they had actually asked, as I did,  Bradshaw for a copy of the presentation

The paper is based on a report just published by FOE entitled: Time to Take our foot off the gas? It is a about more than the shale gas issue and can be download it from their reports section.

So Professor Bradshaw's opinion is now revealed to be not only his, but also the FOE's opinion. But thanks to a respect that Bloomberg appears to no longer deserve, we would never find that out despite the Bloomberg story now appearing in over a dozen other news sources in less than a dozen hours. This could then easily become a self-reinforcing urban myth: Royal Geographical Society Professor says shale won't be a game changer. This narrative sounds so much better than Friends of the Earth says shale gas won't be a game changer, especialy when we'll see the headline picked up by the Guardian, Frack Off, Independent, BBC and guess who ultimately: The FOE themselves.

The FOE have a vested interest in pushing a Peak Gas scenario which makes renewable economics sound halfway affordable. We see the same message constantly repeated by the nuclear and coal industries as well as by our friends to the East and through them to Centrica and Ofgem. That's OK. We're entitled to opinions. But we shouldn't have FOE opinions highlighted to Bloomberg in the first place? Publishing a story that is actually FOE research is liable to confuse at best and possibly even mislead. 

Let me make abundantly clear that Professor Bradshaw told me right away of his source. I'm sure he would have told Bloomberg. I imagine that the audience in Edinburgh also knew of the FOE provenance. But there is a difference between Bloomberg and me sometimes. I bother to ask questions first whereas they seem to recycle press releases first and then? Recycle more press releases afterwards. After all, they got away with it before.

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  • The Prof says "The paper is based on a report just published by FOE".<br /><br />You criticise mere journalists for just recycling press releases. I'd be interested to understand what more the Prof did in his paper than recycle FOE's conclusions.<br /><br />What does "based on" mean here?

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  • From, author says:<br /><br />[I]"Over the past several months, I complete two relevant fact-finding trips: one to West Virginia to get a firsthand look at surface mining for coal, aka mountaintop removal, and the other to Pennsylvania to get a sense of the impacts of natural gas drilling. Some observations:<br /><br />1. Fracking has plenty of potential downsides but from the point-of-view of a helicopter the amount of destruction caused by natural gas drilling is minuscule compared to the large-scale devastation from mountain top removal;[/I]<br /><br />It is a mystery why FOE are so anti shale = pro coal.<br /><br />And Nick makes a very good point re diesel and cancer......we need leadership from our eco lobby groups, we have none.

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  • Tony Bosworth

    There seems to be a bit of a misunderstanding about Professor Bradshaw's report. It was a report written FOR Friends of the Earth, not BY Friends of the Earth. The views in it are entirely Professor Bradshaw's. For anyone who is interested, the report is available at

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  • Thanks for making this not so much clear as slightly less opaque.<br />The FOE logo is plastered all over it. It's hard to conceive that if Prof Bradshaw came up with the same conclusion as say the Royal Academy that the FOE would have published it.<br />However, I'm happy to add it to the over 30 reports in the No Hot Air library, although I note this isn't any more peer reviewed than all the others.

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