Greenpeace has been censured for an advert which said fracking would not cut energy bills. The organisation has described the decision as “baseless, biased and bonkers”.
The advert, which appeared in national newspapers, stated
“Fracking threatens our climate, our countryside and our water. Yet experts agree – it won’t cut our energy bills.”
Lord Lipsey opposed Labour’s conditions for fracking during the passage of the Infrastructure Act and is a member of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, which called in a report for fracking to be a national priority.
To support the statement, Greenpeace provided quotes from more than 20 individuals, groups and organisations on the impact of fracking on prices. It said banning the advert would be a breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides a right to freedom of expression.
But the watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority, decided the advert breached the rules. It said the advert was misleading, unsubstantiated and exaggerated and must not be appear in its current form.
The ASA said “Experts agree – it won’t cut our energy bills” implied the statement was accepted among informed opinion, which it understood was not the case. The ASA quoted comments by the Prime Minister to demonstrate its argument.
The ASA said: “We told Greenpeace Ltd to ensure they did not use claims that misleadingly implied their views were universally accepted if a significant division of informed opinion existed.”
Louise Hutchins, Greenpeace’s energy and climate campaigner, said:
“This decision is baseless, biased, and frankly bonkers. We quoted 22 different expert opinions to back up our statement that fracking won’t bring down bills. The ASA could only find shale enthusiast David Cameron to defend the opposite view.”
Greenpeace said it had challenged the ASA to provide more evidence to justify the ruling but the organisation refused to do so, arguing the onus of proving or disproving the statement was on Greenpeace.
Greenpeace has also questioned the impartiality of the ASA council, the body which decides whether ads have breached the rules. It said Lord Lipsey was a former member of the council. The current chair, was Lord Smith, who also heads the Shale Task Force, which is funded by fracking companies.
Ms Hutchins said: “An authority led by a fracking advocate has ruled in favour of a pro-fracking Lord merely on the basis of the opinion of an avowedly pro-fracking prime minister. She added:
“This ruling also sets a very dangerous precedent. The same perverse logic could be used to ban statements about evolution or climate change on the basis that someone somewhere disagrees with the mainstream view. We can’t allow the ASA to be used as a kangaroo court to muzzle dissenting voices on controversial issues like fracking.”
This is at least the fourth ASA ruling on fracking.
- Six of 18 complaints upheld against a brochure by Cuadrilla Resources in 2013
- All six complaints upheld about a pro-fracking advert placed by the US company, Breitling Energy in 2014
- Five complaints upheld in an informal decision about an anti-fracking leaflet by Residents Action on Fylde Fracking in 2015