Most experts do not agree with David Cameron’s claim that fracking will cut UK energy bills, the advertising watchdog has concluded.
The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has now overturned the decision it took last year to ban a Greenpeace anti-fracking advert, which stated that “experts agree – it won’t cut our energy bills”.
At the time, the ASA cited the fact David Cameron had said fracking would cut energy bills as evidence there was “a significant division of informed opinion on the issue” and so ruled that Greenpeace’s advert was “misleading”.
But after an appeal by Greenpeace and an independent review, the ASA has reversed its original decision, concluding it was “substantially flawed”.
An ASA spokesman said that, this time, it had decided to “focus only on the opinion of experts in this field and not those of others such as the previous Prime Minister”.
After reviewing the expert evidence again, the ASA said in a new judgment: “The general consensus among most appeared to be that a meaningful reduction in UK domestic energy bills was highly unlikely and/or was limited to a small number of potential scenarios.”
Writing in the Telegraph in 2013, Mr Cameron said fracking had “real potential to drive energy bills down” and that even if Britain only experienced a fraction of the impact of shale gas that had been seen in the U.S., “we can expect to see lower energy prices in this country”.
The ASA spokesman said its council had agreed “that a very large body of opinion existed which was sceptical about the alleged beneficial price impact of fracking, therefore any division in informed opinion that did exist was not significant”.
The new ASA ruling noted expert views expressed by energy regulator Ofgem, the fracking industry-funded Task Force on Shale Gas, the UK Energy Research Centre and a Department of Energy and Climate Change report, all of which suggested fracking was unlikely to make much impact on bills.
Greenpeace had accused the ASA of a conflict of interest in its original ruling because its chairman, Lord Smith, also heads the Task Force on Shale Gas, while Lord Lipsey, the Labour peer who brought the original complaint, was once a member of the ASA council.
The ASA said Lord Smith had recused himself from the case.
An ASA spokesman said: “It is only right that, where our Council is presented with persuasive arguments and evidence, we are prepared to overturn our original ruling and put that on the public record.”
Hannah Martin, Greenpeace campaigner, said: “This U-turn is an embarrassment not just for the advertising watchdog but for all the industry advocates who keep touting fracking as the miracle cure to high energy bills.” [Emphasis added]
[If Mr. Cameron was dishonest about frac’ing reducing energy bills, was he dishonest about this too?