Drilling in London? No thanks Boris!

Opposition to fracking and the negative impact it can have on the environment has been well reported. But that’s never stopped Mayor of London Boris Johnson before.

By Murad Qureshi AM, London Assembly Labour group’s environment spokesperson

Opposition to fracking and the negative impact it can have on the environment has been well reported. But that’s never stopped Mayor of London Boris Johnson before.

In a letter to The Times this week, Boris writes:

“…If reserves of shale can be exploited in London we should leave no stone unturned, or unfracked, in the cause of keeping the lights on.”

What should we expect from the man who wants to keep an ‘open mind’ about global warming because it was snowing outside?

As the Mayor of London, Boris has the power to reduce energy inefficiency through his transport and housing policies. Yet, despite having the power to make a real difference with his RE:FIT and RE:NEW programmes which could have helped improve home insulation, cut energy bills and reduce air pollution, the Mayor decided not to support these programmes properly.

Boris his missed his own targets on domestic insulation, carbon emissions and electric cars. It’s a sign of just how oblivious he is that Boris feels he has anything to add to the energy gap debate.

London is undoubtedly in a precarious position – a report the London Assembly Environment Committee published in December 2011 stated that the capital “already consumes 13 per cent of national electricity whilst only generating 2 per cent of the national output”.

But fracking is not the answer. The Mayor should invest in meaningful projects that will help struggling Londoners. Energy cooperatives such as Brixton Energy are affordable, sustainable options that the Mayor could lend his support to. Energy cooperatives enable the members to become invested in the energy they produce and use.

Instead, Boris is giving the energy industry the green light for shale gas exploration in London. Fracking pads are large, lit at all times for safety reasons, noisy and dusty. If they were to go ahead in London, where does the mayor think a drilling rig can be accommodated? Hyde Park? Hackney marshes? Perhaps, his own backyard in Islington?

Energy companies will be queuing up to get their drills in the ground. The Northdown Energy Limited are currently the only company within the M25 to hold licenses to explore for conventional oil and gas around the Croydon area. Current regulations allow them to explore for shale gas as well.

What happened to the ‘cycling Mayor’ who wants to put “village back into the city”, “putting in more trees, having cleaner vehicles, beautifying the parks”?

Having a skyline littered with 10ft-high toxic gas flares doesn’t seem very ‘beautifying’.

Since Boris became mayor in 2008 the gap between London’s total carbon-reduction targets and actual reductions has widened significantly each year.

Boris loves to jump on bandwagons and this is just his latest one – Londoners need a Mayor who considers their needs first ahead of commercial companies looking to make a quick profit at the potential, and as yet unknown, cost to the environment.

As Mayor of a city which already fails to meet air quality targets, where Londoners health is affected by pollution, Boris should be promoting cleaner, greener sources of energy instead of ways to make Londoners lives harder.

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