I’m in favour of fracking.

Let’s get that one out of the way.

I’m aware there are strong environmental arguments against the wrestling of shale gas from deep beneath our feet here in Hampshire, but I’m not convinced.

On the more general point that any gas burning is harmful to the world’s climate I have for a long time felt we are going about this completely the wrong way. In a world where even if we switched off all the lights in the UK the amount of carbon saved would be replaced by China, India and Brazil in a week or so, it seems to me that crippling British industry and taxing our people to high heaven with fuel supplements is crackers. Far better if we accepted the world’s climate was changing and spent all the treasure we are wasting on fairly useless green energy projects on preparing to live in a changed world.

The other argument against fracking seems to centre on concerns that the industry will blight our lives by ruining the view, undermining our homes and setting fire to our tap water. As the last two of these concerns are most likely myths – the famous images of tap water being set alight in the US shows historical contamination through coal gas and not the effects of shale, bytheway – the arguments against shale gas extraction at a truly local level would appear to settle on communities not wanting to have nasty industrial units built near their homes.

Needless to say if someone decided to build a shale gas extractor unit right next to Murray Towers I might naturally object. But then again I would be put out if they wanted to erect a wind turbine or cover the local park in solar units. My objections, however, should not be used to prevent steps to ensure we don’t have to turn off the power to large sections of the nation sometime in the near future.

Nor should those objections be allowed to stand in the way of bringing prosperity in the form of jobs, lower energy prices and independence from the vagaries of foreign powers who hold the aces when it comes to fuel supplies.

Last week we learnt how close we are to energy rationing. We have been let down by previous governments who merrily signed us up to the closure of our coal-fired power stations while failing to agree on how to replace them. At the weekend we learnt that after more or less begging the French to come over a build nuclear power stations for us - we have lost the ability to do so ourselves in an industry where we once led the world - we have also opened negotiations with the Chinese to do the same.

Put simply, if we do not act quickly on fracking then the lights will go out, industry and commerce will face three day weeks and lay offs and we will become the joke economy of the world. The government, though, knows it will have a fight on its hands to convince communities they should allow shale gas extraction to take place beneath their feet. Which is why, as the Daily Echo explained this week, ministers are to offer communities incentives – or bribes as some might see them – to give shale gas the green light. Once people moved towards industry. The jobs, schools, hospitals, amenities that grew up around factories and docks were the incentives that communities sought. Today we rush to the barricades to object to any form of industry being considered for just about everywhere, even in such industrial zones as the city docks.

The government knows then that it must wave the cash if it wants to convince communities about the benefits of shale.

Those incentives could be as much as £10m for a single community over a period of 10 to 25 years depending on how profitable the fracking well turns out to be.

That’s no small beer, especially if the ‘host community’ is fairly small. But there’s a catch. The government isn’t going to simple dish the dosh out to each household to spend as they wish. The money will be funnelled through an elected body such as the local parish council to decide how it should be spent.

On the face of it such a move is unlikely to buy off residents who simply do not want an industrial site near their homes in the same way as, say, the prospect of £25,000 delivered into their bank account as a sweetener. The idea that their windfall will be spent by a few well-meaning notables meeting in the church hall might not instil confidence in communities where their experience of local government is non-existent. And yet such a windfall just might be the very thing needed to make local democracy more vibrant in communities.

When the parish council only has a budget of a few thousand pounds to spend on park benches and litter pick-ups (important as these things are to local life) then interest in standing for election is limited to a few well-meaning residents. But put millions of pounds at the disposal of the Parish and almost everyone will sit up and take notice. Suddenly these are big decisions being made. Such sums could make a big difference to local life: better facilities for the school, welfare for elderly residents, even security patrols or locally-funded beat bobbies. If the communities wanted to be terribly selfish they could even vote to use the money to offset all council taxes, effectively putting thousands of pounds into everyone’s bank accounts each year.

Imagine the ding-dong battles and debates that will ensue. This would be real local democracy at work: passionate, committed, vocal, angry, divisive, exciting, in fact everything local politics has long since ceased to be.

We don’t know yet how the face of Britain will be changed by fracking. But the face of truly local democracy might be changed beyond all recognition.