Blog – When shale gas met Greenpeace face to face in the lions’ den

It takes real guts (or perhaps a touch of March Hare madness) to stand in front of a room full of people doing something you’re utterly opposed to and tell […]

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By Vicky Ellis

It takes real guts (or perhaps a touch of March Hare madness) to stand in front of a room full of people doing something you’re utterly opposed to and tell them they’re wrong.

That was exactly the scene when Greenpeace’s Doug Parr told around 100 shale gas experts, explorers and investors their industry posed a “problem” and they should leave the stuff in the ground.

He was speaking at an unconventional shale gas and oil conference earlier this week in a panel discussion unfortunately reduced to one, which essentially gave him free reign to hold forth.

It was a bit like going into a lions’ den and telling the big cats to stop hunting, or running face first into a swarm of mozzies demanding they leave off biting immediately.

I thought he was going to get, er, mullered, a tasty snack before feeding time at the zoo.

Except… He didn’t.

Credit to the shale gas guys and girls, they were very tolerant – even interested – towards this green preacher among the “dirty heathens”.

There were titters as a suited campaigner (rumoured to be on the shale gas payroll) queried Doug’s argument against extracting more gas, quipping, “What alternatives are there – I suppose we can’t use whale oil”? A grisly joke, almost too bizarre for words.

But on the whole I’ve not seen a spectacle like it – nothing like the frenzied, carnivalesque protests I’ve covered where revellers yelled and danced their distaste for fossil fuels outside energy conferences, all speakers and attendees kept blissfully unaware by security guards and police. And nowhere near as snide and nasty as the mud-slinging you sometimes get in the press.

It’s a credit to those who were there that an open dialogue was allowed. polarised views either way may not be to your liking but it’s great to have them aired.

Bring on the debate: it’s the only way forward.