A local newspaper supplement about shale gas in the East Midlands has attracted three formal complaints to the advertising watchdog.
One complainant listed 40 statements which he said were a breach of the advertising code.
The eight-page supplement, paid for by INEOS Shale, appeared in 10 newspapers owned by Johnston Press last week. DrillOrDrop report
Titled FRACKING What everyone should know, the pull-out said it was time to “set the record straight” about shale gas.
But according to the complainants, some statements in the supplement were misleading, exaggerated, unsubstantiated or subjective.
A spokesperson for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) told DrillOrDrop today:
“I can confirm that we’ve received complaints about the newspaper ad (8 page insert) by INEOS. The three complaints we’ve received came in on Friday and over the weekend and the nature of the complaints appear to challenge whether various claims in the ad are misleading.
“At this stage, we can’t comment beyond confirming receipt of complaints and that we’ll assess them to establish whether there are grounds for an investigation.”
A spokesperson for INEOS said:
“We are confident about the contents of the supplement and will provide the ASA with any assistance they require should they require it.”
One complaint was by John Hobson, who opposes fracking on the Refracktion website and regularly contributes to DrillOrDrop. He has posted online his full complaint, which runs to 12 pages and covers 40 statements.
He argued that INEOS had presented subjective, unsubstantiated or exaggerated opinion as fact.
His complaints include:
- INEOS ignored the issue of fugitive methane emissions when arguing that gas was less damaging to the climate than coal and oil
- INEOS said incorrectly that fracking did not cause tremors that damaged property
- INEOS suggested incorrectly that shale gas would reduce energy costs and without this heavy industry would cease to exist
On the final point, Mr Hobson said:
“Firstly, even representatives from the industry itself agree that UK fracking will not reduce gas prices. Secondly it is absurd to claim that heavy industry will simply disappear if we don’t frack in the UK as gas is readily and plentifully available at prices below that at which UK shale could be produced.”
The ASA and fracking
The ASA has dealt with complaints from both sides of the debate about fracking.
Refracktion made a complaint to the ASA about a brochure published by the shale gas company, Cuadrilla in 2013. Of the 18 issues raised in the complaint, six were upheld, one upheld in part and 11 were not upheld Ruling.
A year later, the ASA upheld all six issues in a complaint by a Balcombe resident to a pro-shale gas advert in the Telegraph paid for by the American company, Breitling Energy Corporation Ruling.
In 2015, the ASA upheld a complaint by Lord Lipsey about an anti-fracking advert by Greenpeace. But in 2016, the ruling was reversed when the organisation appealed to the ASA’s independent assessor Ruling. A complaint against Third Energy was also not upheld Ruling.
Earlier this month, Friends of the Earth agreed not to repeat claims it made in a leaflet about the effects of fracking. This followed an informal resolution of two complaints, including one from Cuadrilla. DrillOrDrop report on the arguments in this case.
A further five complaints against anti-fracking groups have been informally resolved between May 2013 and February 2016.
Making the case for and against fracking
The two sides in the fracking debate in the East Midlands are making their case in the same Derbyshire village tomorrow (Tuesday 31 January 2017).
INEOS has an exhibition about its proposed shale exploration site in Marsh Lane, south of Sheffield. An alternative exhibition, by opponents of the plans, will be held nearby.
DrillOrDrop will be reported from both events.
INEOS exhibition, 2pm-8pm, Green Lawns Community Centre, 8 Warren Walk, Marsh Lane, Derbyshire S21 5RX. Details
Alternative exhibition by opponents: The truth about fracking, 2pm-8pm, Marsh Lane Community Centre, Main Road, Marsh Lane S21 5RH. Details