Fracking is an issue for both the US and UK, and has divided communities and politicians alike. In the UK some see it as an economic opportunity which will return a degree of energy autarky and cut the price of many things, including household heating bills and industrial commodities. Others are concerned about the processes’ environmental impact, with a strong link between fracking, where rocks are broken with a high pressure industrial process, and earthquakes and ground tremors.
Regardless of whether fracking is the right thing to do or not, the leadership behind it has been, no doubt, something future politicians and pundits will probably refer to. This is because there has clearly been both strong leadership, and weak leadership. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has encouraged the people of the UK to ‘get behind fracking’ and the coalition government’s message has overall been that not only should people support fracking, but that it is critical to the UK, and something that must be done. Leadership in the preliminary and establishing stages of getting Britain fracking was obviously effective, because there was only a short amount of time from initial ideas to exploratory drilling.
But now we’re here. Today, The Telegraph reported that ‘senior ministerial aides are among the growing number of Conservative backbenchers warning about the consequences of gas fracking.’ There’ve been protest groups trying to block operations, and there are recurring debates in the media between politicians, environmentalists, energy specialists, and the public. This is because whilst there has been adequate leadership into initiating fracking, the government has, debatably, failed in communicating to the public why fracking is worth the disruption it creates, and there is a perception amongst some that it has been pushed through regardless of public opinion. If the government were a large company, it would be the equivalent of taking everyone’s money out of one pension plan and sinking it into another with the limited explanation of ‘trust us’.
Communication is two-way, and it could be argued that there needed to be a more in-depth consultation. Good leaders listen, and good leaders change their minds, and whilst the Prime Minister may well be in the right, but some would say that perhaps here he should have shown greater empathy for those negatively affected, and should have had his government consult and legislate with the people, rather for the people.