Fracking: What’s all the fuss about?

Over the past week, there has been major fracas over the issue of fracking in the UK. The little village of Balcombe in West Sussex became the stage of the latest showdown between environmentalists and the Caudrilla drilling company, with the police acting as umpire. Watching reels of footage from the protest, I was particularly nauseated and irritated at the sight of able men and women (of all ages) camping outside the drilling site and in effect constituting a nuisance to public order. I watched them in awe, wondering “what’s all the fuss about?” With the country’s economy on life support and unemployment at a staggering 7.7%, I was scandalised to see people loitering the streets in the name of a protest while effectively holding the community to ransom.

So, what’s all the fuss about?

Hydraulic fracturing, also commonly known as fracking, is a technique for recovering gas from shale rock. Although controversial and demonised by environmental groups, it has a long established presence in the UK’s energy industry. In actual fact, Caudrillia fractured its first site in Elswick two decades ago in 1993. Similarly, fracking has been deployed in the US since 1947 and has since become a common feature in the US energy landscape. A staggering 60% of onshore natural gas production comes from fracking. Contrary to popular media and environmental discursive framings, fracking is not a novel phenomenon. What then is the problem?

In 2011, fracking was temporally suspended in the UK after some minor earthquakes in Blackpool. However, after an independent assessment, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) concluded that although there was a possible risk of  earthquakes happening in the future as a result of fracking, the effects of such seismic activity would only be minimal. This review significantly allayed the government’s fears and in turn led to the removal of the embargo on fracking. Fast forward two years later and the battle has moved from the North West to West Sussex.

For those on the anti fracking side of the debate, fracking is seen as posing a great threat to environmental sustainability and public health. It is commonly spouted amongst environmentalists that our groundwater could become polluted with lead and other such toxic chemical agents used in fracking. Whilst there are genuine concerns to be had over the after effects of fracking, the DECC assessment categorically stated that “there is no evidence that the hydraulic fracturing process poses any risk to underground water aquifers provided that the wellcasing is intact before the process commences. Rather, the risks of water contamination are due to issues of well integrity, and are no different to concerns encountered during the extraction of oil and gas from conventional reservoirs. Thus, there seems to be more scaremongering than convictions based on facts. Nevertheless, whatever the potential fall outs from fracking, they do not in themselves ultimately constitute a roadblock to the use of fracking. The ‘quiet revolution’ in shale gas exploration holds significant prizes for the UK’s energy independence and the economy in general. It is simply baffling and quite contradictory that we all clamour for lower energy prices and simultaneously hinder processes like fracking which will make lower bills a reality. The environmental warriors currently besieging Bascombe conveniently ignore the wide disparity in energy prices between the UK and US where fracking has been positively deployed to boost American energy reserves while lowering prices at the pumps. The truth of the matter is that the UK is going to be left behind depending on gas imports from Norway, Qatar and other countries. The US is already reaping significant dividends from shale gas, with projections of the US potentially becoming the largest exporter of LNG by 2015. In remarked contrast, the forecast for the UK is gloomier. Due to dwindling national production of LNG, the UK’s overseas gas import is predicted to rise sharply to about $11bn by 2015. Whist shale gas will not totally solve the UK’s energy problems, its discovery is a step in the right direction. Through fracking, the UK can break new grounds and become more energy self sufficient while significantly lowering the cost of production and cost of living thereby making the economy more competitive.

The current demonstration of myopia by the eco warriors at Balcombe becomes more disturbing with the involvement of Caroline Lucas (Green MP for Brighton Pavilion) who forgot she was directly elected to serve general public interests  and who sadly saw her mandate as an opportunity to pursue narrow sectoral interests. Lucas and her fellow earth protesters forget that the UK’s supply of imported LNG cannot last forever. They conveniently ignore the dangerous fact that in 2009, 45% of the natural gas used in the UK was imported, and this figure is expected to reach 69% by 2019. Renewable energy technologies are not yet widely accessible enough to meet our ever burgeoning energy needs. Quite frankly, with families struggling to pay mortgages and meet basic needs, solar panels are years from becoming a permanent feature on families’ shopping lists. It is therefore the case that the way forward is to set up comprehensive checks and balances to ensure that fracking is carried out under best practices.

On a final note, I cannot but note the hypocrisy of British environmental groups. They had in the past conveniently ignored environmental devastation by oil companies in third world countries while consuming the hydrocarbon products extracted to power the economies of Britain and other industrial countries. The near destruction of the eco system of the Nigerian Niger Delta by Shell and other oil majors is a case in point.  Those communities have had to bear the heavy burden of meeting our insatiable thirst for energy, maybe it is time we started bearing our own energy burdens. Maybe it is then that we will realise the hypocrisy of environmentalism. We will realise that NIMBY-ism only raises its head when it is in only in our backyard.

In conclusion, whilst there are potential environmental and public health risks accompanying shale gas exploration, the UK’s energy security will be significantly enhanced if fracking continues. No energy solution is risk or consequence free – even wind farms are decried as ruining beautiful countryside views. But when the protesting is over, the environmentalists go home, put the kettle on, settle down in front of their TV, log on to their Facebook account on their iPad looking  to galvanise the army of earth worshippers and organise the next crusade.

Where is the energy going to come from, I ask?

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Categories: Global Political Insight

Author:Piccolo

Who says Christianity and politics don't mix?! Pfft! I am a redeemed daughter of the Most High on a mission to rebuild the broken walls in our society today, one word at a time. I do God...make no mistake about that - feel free to join me. Read this blog, let your mind be renewed and your life be transformed. I love a good argument, please let me at it!!!!

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One Comment on “Fracking: What’s all the fuss about?”

  1. Terry Webster
    September 20, 2014 at 2:29 am #

    We here in the wonderfully stupid U.S. are finding Fracking to cause a great many problems, among them making water unfit for humans or anything else. Perhaps you don’t drink water. Like any program devised by energy companies fracking needs to be watched and not by the governments who are funded by those companies, wake up sleeper.

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