An incomplete history of complaints about Anti-fracking groups to the Advertising Standards Authority

You never know what pensioners get up to these days. Some simply put on their slippers and watch telly. Others are more active and go in for cycling, mountain walking , mountain biking, climbing, kayaking or paragliding. If they are seen hobbling they clearly overdid it the day before. Some even do a bit of their old jobs. They also infuriate yellow-bellied Nanas, who are scared of getting cancer but still smoke like chimbleys!


One of us was an  engineer on oil rigs and the other started life as an exploration and mining geologist, so both have a little knowledge of the plethora of issues around fracking. Both had got substantially beyond KS1 in science and thus have some grasp of technicalities. Unlike fractivists they also consult the real experts i.e. not Ian Crane or Gayzer, when they need to understand some technical issue. They actually regard the British Geological Survey, Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineers as having some knowledge of fracking and are worth looking to for expert opinion. 

So here is an account of two outdoor activist pensioners (in the physical sense), Michael and Ken who got utterly fed up with the post-truth ramblings of anti-frackers in various parts of England. Both came into the fracking debate by accident and were initially more concerned at the enthusiastic  inaccuracy of the anti-frackers. In their desire to find out they separately attended anti-fracking meetings at opposite ends of the country. One went to a Frack Free Somerset(FFS) meeting and the other first to a Frack Off meeting near Preston and then to a Residents against fracking;Fylde (RAFF) near Caudrilla’s proposed sites. At that point neither had met, but both the one from a geological background and the other from oil-drilling came to similar conclusions about the systematic misrepresentation and distortion presented by these groups in their talks, films,  and publications. Both, rather than using echo-chambering material from anti-frack groups, we preferred to go to the real experts from the specialist groups mentioned above.

Those with even a little awareness of fracking will know of claims that fracking causes earthquakes, poisons water, pollutes farming land, emits toxic gases, causes serious health problems and so ad infinitum. Separately, we soon found that these claims were at best exaggerated and at worst downright dishonest. Worse, was that these false claims were being widely believed. 

Anti-fracking groups have been active in many places but at present the hot spots are Lancashire and Yorkshire.  They have peddled their false arguments and convinced many locals, as with this sign on Preston New Road.




For the past couple of years, we have been questioning the supposed science behind many claims made by antifrack groups. Ken has made complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Michael has provided support and put these on his blog. In all cases, the anti groups have failed to justify their claims, and have withdrawn their adverts, on the condition that they do not present them again. This is the usual practice of the ASA. If an organisation does not have a history of making false claims, then they accept a ‘mea culpa’ admission of their error, and this is published on the ASA website. If on the other hand, an organisation disputes the complaint, then this is taken to the ASA committee, and they will make a decision, on a complaint by complaint basis. Please note that we are not promoting fracking. We would like to see the pro/anti arguments be based on facts, rather than pseudoscience. Sadly this is not the case at present The organisations I complained about were.

  • Frack Free Somerset.
  • Frack Free Alliance.
  • Resident Action on Fylde Fracking
  • Frack Free Ryedale

Here is a screenshot tabulating the results of these four complaints.


Now dealing with each in more detail. One is in Yorkshire, one in Lancashire, one in Somerset and the other is not easily located but has links with Lancashire. The links give more information.

1.)Frack Free Ryedale     3 February 2016          1          Regional press            Non-commercial

There have been gas wells in Ryedale  for several decades. One at Kirkby Misperton provides gas for a small generator. Since Third Energy have wanted to expand and prospect for fracking opposition has sprung mostly in the form of Frack Free Ryedale. I won’t go into details but the arguments are the usual ones. However in  September 2015 FFR put an advert into the Malton Gazette and thus a complaint was put into the ASA. The result was an a agreement not to publish the arguments again.

Here are the details of the complaint




2.) Frack Free Alliance     3 June 2015     1          Leaflet Non-commercial

In early 2015 the farmers’ magazine The Farmers’ Guardian included a leaflet on the dangers of fracking, which was paid for by a third party. It contain the usual errors………………

My old blog gives some details

Here is the flyer



and the complaint


3.) Residents Action on Fylde Fracking    7 January 2015            1          Leaflet Non-commercial

Residents Action on Fylde Fracking  (RAFF) Has been active in the Fylde area of Lancashire for several years and got environmental awarded from Friends of the Earth. Soon after Cuadrilla announced their applications for Roseacre and Preston New Road in February 2014 they organised a meeting in Inskip. The presentation was the usual availability cascade. Questions from the floor were met with hostility 🙂 Among the literature given out was a well-produced brochure; Shale Gas:The Facts.




It was hardly factually and a long list of complaints were sent to the ASA as you can read in this blog

In January 2015 RAFF agreed to withdraw the leaflet and not use the arguments again.


4.) Frack Free Somerset   7 May 2014     1          Leaflet Non-commercial


Sorry, I can’t provide details but it was the usual list of spurious complaints against fracking

In all of these we see the same old make-it-all-up arguments, which are passed round like chinese whispers. Groups like this seem very loath to check out things with real experts!


This kind of sustained misinformation by anti-fracking groups supposedly concerned for the well-being of local people and countryside is very worrying and symptomatic of our post-truth society where ideology and emotions trumps truth. If it were simply a one-off then it could be seen as that, but this has been a sustained programme from green groups going back to 2010 or 2011.These four successful complaints to the ASA are the tip of a iceberg of a malaise of misinformation which afflicts most green groups, and environmentalists as well as many in the political life of our land. If fracking IS polluting and dangerous then there would be good scientific argument for saying so. But no such arguments have been presented here.

However as I write this on the ninth Day of Christmas, I believe there may well be a volatile epiphany before the real Epiphany on the 12 th day of Christmas. This is the prequel to that

3 thoughts on “An incomplete history of complaints about Anti-fracking groups to the Advertising Standards Authority

  1. ian palmer

    Thanks Michael for this blog discussing false conclusions based on lack of data and facts. I have written about shale fracking (for shale-oil-and-gas), emphasizing real data and valid conclusions. The fracs do NOT grow up to the surface and pollute aquifers or water wells, altho rare instances of a poorly-cemented well may allow this. Fracking does NOT cause earthquakes, which have been common in Oklahoma. But injection of produced water (mostly NOT frac water) DOES cause earthquakes in disposal wells. However there are simple ways to prevent this. To read more go to and search on fracking.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Advertising watchdog warns Friends of the Earth over fracking claims – DRILL OR DROP?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s