ASA slaps down fracking ad for 'unsubstantiated' claims

The ASA has slapped down an ad by American fracking company Breitling Energy Corporation after it was found to be misleading and had made unsubstantiated claims.

Breitling Energy Corporation: ASA bans fracking ad
Breitling Energy Corporation: ASA bans fracking ad

The authority upheld a complaint against the ad that appeared in the Daily Telegraph and expressed support for fracking for shale gas.

The ad, addressed to "citizens of the United Kingdom," suggested shale gas supplies in the UK could be "considerably higher than formal estimates." It said the news was "fantastic" in light of what it claimed was a "near-catastrophic gas shortage last winter."

It went on to claim shale would create "freedom from interruptions and stoppages as a result of Russia's political games with [the] gas supply", it said there was "decades" worth of available natural gas which could create "millions of pounds in tax revenue" and lower gas prices for consumers.

The complainant challenged the ad on six points, all of which were upheld by the ASA.

The challenges were around claims that: it exaggerated the severity of the winter gas shortage; that the amount of natural gas in the UK, and the economic viability of extracting it, was not yet known; that domestic extraction would have minimal impact on energy prices because the UK was part of an integrated European gas market; that there were no reliable estimates for the carbon footprint of shale gas extraction; and that Russia had never interrupted the UK's gas supply.

The adjudicator investigated and upheld all complaints. It found that there was "insufficient evidence to demonstrate that the UK had been in real danger of running out of gas, and therefore that the reference to a 'near-catastrophic' shortage was misleading."

It also found instances of unsubstantiated claims and of exaggerated, misleading claims around possible interruptions to the UK’s gas supply.

The ASA ruled the claims must not appear again in their current form. Breitling Energy Corporation must, it ruled, ensure they held robust documentary evidence in support of claims likely to be regarded as objective, and that matters of opinion were not presented as objective claims.