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« Polar propaganda | Main | The two Ds and their killer plan »

The compliant media and the scary stories

The BBC and every other environmental pressure group in the country is reporting the release under FOI of a draft Defra report on the impacts of unconventional oil and gas with considerable excitement. The main theme is encapsulated in the headline: "Fracking 'could lower house prices' says draft official report".

Here, for comparison, is an FT report from 2013 about the effects of the Bakken shale revolution in North Dakota., which analyses house sales, says the average house or condominium in Williston in 2009 cost $101,906. By 2011, the average was $122,000 – still below the norm for North Dakota. “But since then prices have doubled or in some cases tripled,” says estate agent Arlene Hickel, of Bekk’s Realty in Williston.

A study of home prices in Pennsylvania also found an overall positive effect, with only homes with a private groundwater supply negatively affected (in the UK this would be pretty much nobody). And even here it is worth noting the part that fear plays in this effect. There is no real evidence that shale gas actually affects ground water - there are only environmentalists' scare stories compliantly repeated by a compliant media. When The Economist, once considered a serious publication, puts a "flaming faucet" at the top of a story about shale, you realise that something has gone badly awry.

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Reader Comments (36)

House prices and 'bad stuff' is a very interesting subject. Noise, one would think, would render a house unsellable, or drastically reduce the price. No, not really, according to the few studies there are. A house on say a dual carriageway goes at only about a 10% discount to one a few blocks back. Different things bother different people to different degrees. Discounts on prices motivate different people to different extents. The proposition, 'fracking in the locality will seriously reduce house prices', is simplistic.

Jul 2, 2015 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

The earlier DEFRA WINDFARMS Report still being repressed! 2013, 2014
..hiding the effect of windfarms on property prices ?
Are the same media pushing for its release ?
Wasn't Owen Paterson always trying to get ED Davey to release it ?

Jul 2, 2015 at 9:22 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Ah, but if they bang on about how fictionally dangerous fracking is and how it will affect house prices, then fracking WILL affect house prices. QED.

Jul 2, 2015 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

An LSE study widely reported in 2014 ( found that wind farms can lower property values by 12%. A 2004 DEFRA study found having a landfill within a quarter of a mile reduced house values by £5,500. Meanwhile, some predictions suggest that Crossrail will increase property values in Windsor by as much as 40%

The point is that any industrial or infrastructure development can reasonably be expected to impact property prices, both positively and negatively.

This draft DEFRA report on fracking is overly simplistic - but provides a nice sound bite for the media.

Jul 2, 2015 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered Commenter@_environmentor

stewgreen as far as I know at least in USA wind farms have not had much impact on house prices, despite claims that they would; and the claims of health damage/psychological suffering from wind turbines low frequency noise have also not been substantiated.

Jul 2, 2015 at 9:32 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

Any report on the impact of fracking on house prices in the UK is self-evidently pure tendentious agit-prop, bearing the same relation to reality as a discussion of the dangers to English city pedestrians of stampeding elephants.
Wind powered subsidy farms, however are a different matter.
Here, there is factual evidence of impacts on house prices (as indeed there is, as to their costs and usefulness - by no means all in the public domain!).
As stewgreen points out, this information must now be released!

Jul 2, 2015 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

Look at the effect that the Wytch Farm oilfield has had on house prices at Branksome and Sandbanks! (q.v. if not UK)
Terrible, isn't it!

Jul 2, 2015 at 9:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterSimonJ

They have nothing else.

Fracking hasn't caused any significant environmental damage.
The gas itself has lowered CO2 emissions. (Whatever that's worth)
It's also reduced fuel / energy prices and sent the US economy booming.
It's created jobs, wealth and opportunities.
Their 'scares' have failed on every point raised.

Hence they resort to scaring the masses to seek a 'consensus' for banning it. It's almost the last throw of the dice for them.

Jul 2, 2015 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

Once Owen Paterson was sacked, there was no way the Defra report on wind turbines impacts on house prices was going to be released by DECC. Two years later and nothing has changed - the truth is hidden from the public.

Jul 2, 2015 at 10:04 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Mass unemployment and recession aren't good for house prices either.

There's going to be more Greek property on the market at knock-down prices. When the BBC are over there reporting on the misery, why don't they ask the locals if they think a bit of fracking would be a good idea.

Jul 2, 2015 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

When anti-fracking fear mongers get caught telling the truth that will be newsworthy.

Jul 2, 2015 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

hunter, more broadly, the question is why do virtually all pressure groups follow the same trajectory from well-meaning individuals trying to do something about a topic about which they know a lot, to hysterical ranters using any kind of half-truthisms to try to tell us the world will end if their particular obsession is not put at the top of everyone's agenda?

Michael Hart, I'm not so sure about cheap greek property. When Spain was having its travails I thought property prices might totally collapse and a bungalow in the sun could be had for a song. Prices did come off a bit but not the 50-60-70% one might have thought desperate developers would be offering to try to get some kind of cash flow. I wonder if the strange resilience of price, in the face of zero demand, is something to do with the fact that all those dwellings were built with banks money and so are technically assets of the bank so no bank is going to agree to writing them off/knocking them out cheap because that would damage the banks balance sheet and oh dear me no, much better just to sit tight, insist the flat no-one wants IS worth 250,000 euros, and carry on insisting for as long as it no, no cheap property for bargain hunters.

Jul 2, 2015 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

Yes in this part of France asking prices have fallen slightly and waiting times to sell have increased greatly. But unless you've got a desperate need to move elsewhere there are worse places to be than Spain, France or Greece.

Jul 2, 2015 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

michael hart

"Mass unemployment and recession aren't good for house prices either. "

Well, I wonder, stop gap or just the beginning?:-

Jaguar Land Rover to contract out production of future cars

"......There have been rumours JLR has been looking at production in eastern and central Europe for some time, and Professor David Bailey, an auto industry expert at Aston Business School, said that by contracting Magna, the company could have found a solution to several problems it faced.

“JLR has nearly maxed out its production capacity and the UK supply chain might not be able to cope if it built another factory here. The skills shortage in the UK also means they are struggling to find the workers they need.”

Prof Bailey added: “Sterling’s appreciation and the high price of energy in the UK, along with the carbon price floor about to kick in, could mean that JLR is getting squeezed on cost. Perhaps labour is the only place it could make savings and that was a factor.”

Which cars JLR puts through the Graz plant and for how long could also be instructive about its future production plans, he said. Producing electric or alternatively-powered cars in smaller numbers in Graz would help the company avoid European Union emission fines that are on their way in, while a conventionally powered model could indicate a longer-term plan.

“If JLR put a small number of vehicles through Graz such as electric or hybrid Jaguars then I would not be surprised. But if it’s a major new line – specifically a replacement for the Land Rover Defender - then that would send a signal" "...

PS isn't Austria embarking on some EU legal fight to block Hinkley Point C?

Jul 2, 2015 at 11:01 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

PS isn't Austria embarking on some EU legal fight to block Hinkley Point C?

On the basis that UK Gov support for the plant is illegal under the EU as it (as far as the Austrians are concerned) constitutes a state subsidy. Bring on the EU Referendum.

Jul 2, 2015 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Why is it that every attempt to improve the overall lot of the people is blocked by some !%$*&£/! from europe? As said Harry, bring on the referendum can't happen soon enough, although I dare say it will be couched in wording that will imply great suffering to the British people if we vote to leave! Jobs, trade, the economy, British = bad, European = good!

Jul 2, 2015 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

My headline "Fracking makes houses more affordable", now that's more like it.

Jul 2, 2015 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered Commenterson of mulder

Of course, in an ideal world, house prices would be low and everybody could afford to have a house. It could be a home, and not an appreciating capital asset. But we don't live in an imaginary world. Or at least we have to spend some time in the real world.

When the BBC other other "green" pressure groups get to Paris, they will be taught how to spell insouciance.

Jul 2, 2015 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Does anyone know what happens to house prices if you disconnect them from mains electricity, and force occupants to rely on Unreliable electricty supplies instead?

The Green Blob expect us all to think it would be wonderful, especially those in South East England depending on French nuclear electricity, to cover up their wind problem.

Jul 2, 2015 at 12:12 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

son of mulder
Lower house prices, lower energy costs, plus improved employment prospects what's not to like?

Jul 2, 2015 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Try selling a house near a wind farm....

Jul 2, 2015 at 12:47 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

eesh.... no mention then on the target audience ....and - it had to be winched / dragged out under FoI. (by who? I wonder?) It's relatively unusual in my experience for a FoI document to go up on government web site after FoI.

Caveats - Note for Readers....
at the top

This paper is an early draft of an internal document; it is not analytically robust.
Work on it has since been discontinued.

down on page 8
Little drilling or testing has taken place and therefore it is not possible to make meaningful estimates at this stage. The DECC SEA notes that a series of assumptions have been made, that these assumptions do not represent any definitive view but rather a representative view based on present knowledge.

Even then a trivial associative word count is useful ( >word< + "impact")

2 "positive" (14 single word)
8 "negative", "uncertain", "potential" (52 single word)

But really
- who was this intended for?
- why was the author gifted anonymity?

Lots of "reporting" going on....

btw is there any decent amount of potential production grade shale under The Crown Estates? - just curious ..There's been talk over the years about The Wych Farm "extension" which is possibly under MoD land to the north ....

Jul 2, 2015 at 12:48 PM | Registered Commentertomo

I assume that this is the statement that the media have been trying to scare up a little:

"Overall the evidence on impact on property prices in the literature is quite thin and the results
are not conclusive.
There could potentially be a range of 0 to 7% reductions in property values within 1 mile of an extraction site to reflect the impacts, where the high range reflects the top end of the Boxall et al (2005) estimate for the price fall."

Having read the whole thing it looks like the conclusions are mostly positive but based on largely American and inappropriate, inapplicable evidence. Pretty desperate media circus if that is all they can find. If it is to be believed then buy to let in the area seems a pretty good investment assuming the Planning Inspectorate follows the letter of the law and passes the applications. Fun Times.

Jul 2, 2015 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

Speaking of the anti-fracking campaign...

In the Women's World Cup, England scored an own goal, thus losing the semi-final game.

Own goals are a standard feature of the UK energy strategy.

Jul 2, 2015 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon B

Jul 2, 2015 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

On that basis I'd imagine that the French courts must be groaning under the weight of Austrian litigation.

Jul 2, 2015 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

The document you've linked to says this

Covering Note
This paper is an early draft of an internal document; it is not analytically robust. Work on it has since been discontinued.

The draft paper was intended as a review of existing literature. It includes early, often vague, assumptions which are not supported by appropriate evidence. These were never intended as considered Defra positions or as statements of fact.

Containing no new evidence, the paper simply refers to data from overseas studies which cannot be used to predict impacts in the UK with any degree of reliability. The author of the paper was not asked to consider, and did not have an in-depth knowledge of, the UK regulatory framework.
In June 2012, the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering report concluded that environmental (and health and safety) risks can be managed effectively in the UK if operational best practices are enforced through regulation. The UK has a rigorous and robust regulatory regime which is fully capable of preventing and managing any risks.
This paper has been released further to a Decision Notice issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on 8 June 2015. The ICO accepted that the paper was an incomplete draft.

The BBC used this, admittedly saying

It added that the conclusions of the draft report "amount to unsubstantiated conjecture".

but neglect to include the important part, that work has been discontinued. Both the BBC and DEFRA are being disingenuous in reporting and publishing.

Jul 2, 2015 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Let me guess - the report can be summarised as: "because the BBC and other nutters will create a totally unfounded scare, house prices will be affected, until sufficent drilling takes place to prove the BBC & other assorted nuters are a bunch of incompetent liars" ... is that what it says?

Jul 2, 2015 at 1:42 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

That's the gist of my complaint to the BBC. Not that anything will come of it, I expect most of the 1000 jobs under threat at the beeb are in the complaints section.

Jul 2, 2015 at 2:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

@MikeHaseler that is what a just report would day
- My guess this actual report was compm

Jul 2, 2015 at 2:51 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Boss : l've looked at your half finished report, but its rubbish. So abandon it .
Worker to friend : Can you put in an FOIA requestso that it gets published.

Jul 2, 2015 at 4:02 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

In the US the activists call that sort of 'reporting" "false but accurate".
"False but accurate" gives us a very meaningful insight into what passes for thinking in the activist world.

Jul 2, 2015 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

I note that in the shale reporting frenzy The Institute of Directors did one... (quoted in this DEFRA emission) - imagine my surprise to find "Banana Man" and Hils Clinton's favorite toy boy David Miliband gurning out at me from the main page.... shudder.

There was me laboring under the misapprehension that the IoD was about business.....

Jul 2, 2015 at 5:25 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Last nights Newsnight on BBC iPlayer discussing the warm spell with Kirsty Wark with Chris Rapley.

She claimed that yesterday July 1 2015 was the Warmist July day since records began unfortunately she does not mention the source and verification for her Data.
According to Dellingpole at Briebart yesterdays claim was one Measurement taken at Midday at Heathrow Airport .Obvious Urban Heat Island effect .She also claims it was the hottest day on record but once again she does not identify the source of her claim or when the records actually began

Telephone number for the BBC complaints line is 03700100222 then press 3

Best of all its not automated you get an operator.

Jul 2, 2015 at 5:42 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Nice to see you got a seat on the fracking band wagon Bish ^.^ Just remember that only a couple of years ago you were spouting anti fracking bilge and also you still do not realise how much shale is up there in the wild wild Northwest hehe

Jul 2, 2015 at 6:59 PM | Registered CommenterDung

As it happens, I know the Little Plumpton site and the surrounding area. There are some quite nice rural houses in the small villages of the Fylde. I did a little research on Zoopla, and found that homes in Wrea Green/Westby/Little Plumpton/Kirkham all seem to be up in value modestly, and by rather more that homes in Blackpool itself (where no drilling is planned). Moreover, there doesn't appear to be a large number of homes on the market seeking to avoid future price falls etc. Most will know that they are as likely to be affected as they were by the drilling at Preese Hall, which is not very far away - i.e. they'll barely notice it at all.

Jul 2, 2015 at 10:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

after reading the draft paper/report Bish linked above I don't see it as being as negative to fracking in the UK as BBC would imply (hope Bish agrees/which he implies I think :-?)

Some quotes -
from Executive summary
"The main high level findings from the report are summarized in the tables below which consider the economic, social and environmental impacts specifically for rural communities rather than the wider economy."

this tells us it limits itself to "rural" only (as per the report map ? not sure)

from "Comparison of findings
Despite this there is a degree of consistency in the peak level of production expected around 2020 and that overall it will lead to a positive impact on employment and greater energy security."

from "Section 2: Areas likely to be effected by Shale Gas licensing

Shale gas is now regulated by DECC through the office for unconventional gas and oil. The main areas that have been identified for exploration are illustrated in the diagram below which shows the extent of the reserves and current licenses that have been awarded. This indicates that large numbers of rural communities may be affected by the expansion of shale gas activities in the North East, West and Southern regions of England."

looking at that map I see the area where I grew up (West Lothian, Scotland) has huge optional (

from "3.1 Economic Impacts

It is often claimed that the overall effect of shale gas operations will be positive with benefits such as lower energy prices that are more secure and tax revenues that can compensate communities for the impact of externalities. Indeed the government recently announced that English councils which give the go-ahead to shale gas developments will be allowed to keep 100 per cent of the business rates they collect from consented sites1. This is estimated to be worth up to £1.7m a year for a typical site. In 2013 the industry also announced that local communities would receive £100,000 when a test well is fracked – and a further one per cent of revenues if shale gas is discovered. This could be worth £5m-10m for a typical producing site over its lifetime. The industry will consult further on how this money can best be shared with the local community, with options including direct cash payments to people living near the site, plus the setting up of local funds directly managed by local communities. "

bet the BBC never asked the locals what they really want if the true info was given.

Jul 4, 2015 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterdfhunter

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