Fracking and the UK's highly faulted geologists

Geology academics: want to rise-up from relative obscurity? Simple, just criticise the UK fracking industry.


That's certainly how it seems.

In the last couple of years, a number of university professors and other academics have hit the headlines by producing papers that are critical of fracking's chances. 

They include:

• Prof Stuart Hazeldine

• Prof John Underhill

• Prof Roy Thompson

• Prof Peter Strachan

•Prof David Smythe

The last two in this list have gone full-on anti-fracker, and so their comments have to be considered to be very biased. 

There are a couple of things that seem to unite these academics: firstly, it appears that none of them have actually worked in onshore oil and gas in a practical manner - we can't seem to find any evidence of them being wellsite geologists, for instance; and, secondly, they're all attached to universities in Scotland. 

So why do they all keep chipping in with what appear to be faulty observations, including on subject matter that is right outside their scope?

Well, universities rely on research funding from external bodies, and to capture a bigger slice of the research pie, it helps if you have some well-known academics on your team - criticising shale gas is a sure-fire way for university professors to get noticed because left-leaning titles like the Independent and Guardian will lap it up. 

Then there's the fact that they may feel overly obscure, and so will relish the chance to enter the spotlight by having their work featured in the news. 

Could they be benefiting from research funding from anti-fossil fuel groups as well? Very possibly. 

But we're left wondering if there's also a political dimension to it all: the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) is currently maintaining a moratorium on fracking in Scotland. Could it be that these professors are politically aligned with the SNP and want to block shale gas development in Scotland permanently? Could it be that the SNP itself has lobbied the universities? 

We don't claim to fully understand all the reasons why a small number of relatively obscure academics attached to universities in Scotland keep trying to undermine the UK's nascent shale gas industry but we're sure the facts and the truth will emerge one day. 

In the meantime, we strongly advise that everything they say be taken with a pinch or two of salt. 


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