This indifferent photograph from near the back of the Town Hall's Pillar Room was taken at the end of last night's fracking discussion, part of the Cheltenham Science Festival. It shows the main participants, energy economist Paul Ekins and (right) Andrew Quarles, Cuadrilla's exploration director.
Ably though Richard Bacon chaired it, the self-styled "debate" could have done with being a little more adversarial. And of course it needed longer than an hour, to allow more of the audience's expertise, and I suspect concern, to make itself heard.
The context of climate change and the neglect of the 5th Fuel (energy conservation) needed bringing out more too, IMHO; but the speakers both did well to prevent it just becoming an emotional tussle.
Cuadrilla is asking for "a social licence", but Prof. Ekins queries whether the public trusts the energy companies to tell the whole story, let alone the Government to regulate them effectively: fracking would have no impact on gas prices; 50 wells need to be dug to see what the fugitive emissions would amount to, and whether UK fracking was viable at all - and then 300 new wells a year to meet industry expectations. On top of all this, it's likely to become a substitute for nuclear or renewables, rather than coal. Wouldn't we be better off looking for energy security through renewables? Precisely.