To frack or not to frack?

FRACKING for shale gas, David Cameron insisted last year, is something that the whole of Britain would come to accept once the benefits were fully explained.

It is now time for the Prime Minister to make good on his words and make a real attempt to initiate a debate in which the whole country can take part.

Certainly, if shale gas can deliver the benefits that it appears to have done in the United States, making energy far cheaper, reducing dependency on imports and providing jobs, then the British people will surely sit up and listen.

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The drift and delay that has characterised energy policy in this country for much of the past two decades simply cannot be allowed to continue. Slow progress on developing renewable energy and opening new nuclear power stations has raised the prospect of prolonging the life of coal-fired generators simply to ensure that the lights stay on, in spite of the increased carbon emissions this would bring about.

It is clear, therefore, that the rapid development of shale gas would get Ministers out of a huge hole. No wonder, then, that Mr Cameron is planning to overcome the strong public unease about the environmental dangers of fracking by the simple expedient of stuffing the objectors’ mouths with 

Hence, the Prime Minister is promising that local authorities will receive all the business rates collected from shale-gas schemes, on top of promises already made by the mining industry to give communities £100,000 for each test drilling and a share of the revenues if gas is discovered.

Bribery, however, is no substitute for debate. The very scale of these promises makes it clear that the Government believes there will be real opposition to its plans. And this opposition can only be overcome by proper, reasoned argument.

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The Yorkshire Post is already planning to lead the debate in this region with the next in its series of Big Debates, analysing the merits and the problems of fracking for shale gas, so that communities can examine the facts before deciding whether or not to accept the cash being thrown at them.

Hawkish dove

THE way in which the Middle East peace process has floundered since Ariel Sharon suffered his debilitating stroke in 2006 is testimony to the drive and vision which the former Israeli military leader brought to the ideal of reaching a final settlement with the Palestinians.

The paradox that surrounded Mr Sharon, however, is that, while few who observed his military successes would have predicted his future role as a peacemaker, it was his impeccable credentials as an Israeli hawk which gave him the credibility to convince the hardliners on his own side that concessions to the Palestinians were the only way to achieve peace.

Yet the enthusiasm with which many Palestinians greeted the news of Mr Sharon’s death over the weekend was only too easy to understand. His ruthless military campaigns, from the 1950s to the 1980s, were frequently conducted with scant regard for human life, his only concern being the achievement of Israel’s security.

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It was this fearsome reputation which made Mr Sharon Israel’s choice as prime minister during the second Palestinian intifada in 2001. Yet, on taking office, he confounded expectations by balancing an aggressive war on terrorism with a simultaneous policy of sacrificing Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the very project to which much of his military career had been devoted.

It was this process which culminated in Israel’s complete withdrawal from Gaza and in Mr Sharon’s attempted realignment of Israeli politics, by leaving Likud and establishing his Kadima party which, at the time of his stroke, he was planning to lead to election victory on a platform of peace.

Mr Sharon’s untimely incapacitation, of course, means that it is impossible to say where his bold strategy would have led the Middle East. What can be said with certainty, however, is that no leader, whether in Israel, the Palestinian Authority, or the White House, has since shown anything approaching the courage and imagination which Mr Sharon displayed towards the end of his political life. And Israelis and Palestinians alike have suffered accordingly.

Here for the beer

NOT for New Yorkers the glories of the Grand Départ. The main reason to visit Yorkshire during 2014, according to The New York Times, is the beer.

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Advocating an ale trail around the pubs of Sheffield, Leeds and York, the newspaper puts Yorkshire 22nd in its list of 52 places to visit in 2014.

It is, as many a Yorkshire native could attest, a formidable reason to visit. But, as we all know, there is so much more, not least the opening stages of the Tour de France in July, as well as the scenery, the shopping, the restaurants and the culture which led travel-guide company Lonely Planet to name Yorkshire the third-best region in the world to visit in 2014.

Indeed, it seems as if Yorkshire might be in for a record-breaking influx of visitors from around the world.

But at least there will be no need to ask New Yorkers the prime reason for their visit. They will only be here for the beer.