Fracking: Where Britain Stands

Over the past several months the British public has been exposed to issues concerning fracking (Hydraulic Fracturing), though some argue in favour of this method of extracting shale gas. Where there is the argument that fracking has horrendous environmental repercussions, there is also the argument that it prevents reliance on other countries’ energy sources. Many maintain that this will help lower energy costs, and will help strengthen the British economy.

Whilst this seems to be a plausible argument, others argue that there are ‘greener’ and safer alternatives that ought to be considered. These alternatives, however, have been disputed by the big energy companies, therefore little being done to invest in these ‘greener’ alternatives.

In the US, the media is presenting the fracking industry as the best option, with headlines such as ‘US Fracking creates ‘gold rush’ towns in Texas’ in The Telegraph, ‘US fracking Boom Stabilizes Oil Market’ in Reason, and ‘Fracking Boom Continues To Drive Gas Prices Downward’ in the Daily Caller. Though its representation in the media is often a positive one, those who live near the fracking plants do not adhere to the media opinion. In Pennsylvania alone there have been 106 cases of water contamination caused by nearby fracking sites since 2005. Although, in recent years, fracking companies have implemented regulations and improvements to the method, there are still complaints years after fracking was given the go ahead in the US. Companies now maintain that fracking is cleaner and much safer than before, however long-term environmental activist Robert Howarth states that “all this talk that it’s a clean fuel, as some say, is not based on any scientific analysis”. Most of the public who live near fracking sites are against it, and have protested against its methods, and yet the industry continues because of the demand.

As the US continues to attain oil alternatives through fracking, the UK is becoming increasingly sceptical of this industry. The media in the UK portray fracking in a much more judgemental light. British tabloids report predominantly on the Anti-Fracking movement and the decrease in price of house that are near proposed fracking sites. At Barton Moss near Manchester, where there have been several controversial issues concerning fracking, locals have reported contaminated water, which is unfit for human use. In an article published in Justice 4 Barton Moss, a reporter found that ‘shale gas drilling has been linked in many occasions to flammable drinking water’. This was enough to move residents to protest against the fracking site.

In addition to health concerns, the impact on the environment caused by fracking is also a concern for activists. The Global Organisation Greenpeace set up a petition to ban the process altogether. The sheer amount of water, sand and chemicals required for the process alone has a detrimental effect on the environment, with thousands of polluting diesel trucks required to transport chemicals, water, and waste to and from each fracking site emitting a dangerous amount of pollution into the atmosphere. This is before taking into consideration the geological factors, such as earthquakes, which are found to be intrinsically linked to, and caused by, fracking sites in Texas and Oklahoma in the US.

Despite the health and environmental concerns, some still support the industry because of its financial benefits. The EU imports around 53% of the energy it consumes, and the UK is dependent on importing much of its gas from Europe, predominantly from Russia. The UK Net import dependency on fuel has increased from around 25-30% in 2009 to a staggering 50% at the last quarter of 2012, according to the Department for Energy and Climate Change. To extract gas from underneath British soil would help the UK become less dependent on foreign import. This has led to the assumption that costs in energy and gas prices will decline. However, one cannot assume that energy companies will lower their prices: it simply means more of the product to sell to the ever increasing demand from the consumer.

In an article for Ecotricity, it was found that Britons favour onshore wind over fracking by three to one. When it comes to the major political parties, Labour takes the lead as the ‘greenest’ party, with 76% of supporters favouring wind over 9% favouring fracking, followed by the Lib Dems, 78% of whom support wind, while 14% favour fracking. The Conservative supporters, led by Cameron who famously stated that a wind turbine is a ‘blot on the landscape’, saw a more equal distribution of wind-fracking support.

Even though Britons largely favour non-renewable energy sources, the Government still seems to push through for more fracking in the UK. Charles Anglin from the British Wind Energy Association has stated that wind energy has “created 20,000 jobs in Denmark, 30,000 jobs in Spain and 80,000 in Germany. Britain has 6,000. If just 20 gigawatts of offshore wind farm capacity is built by 2020, and two-thirds of that in the UK, that could create over 45,000 jobs. Wind energy is also cleaner, renewable, and there is no expense involved with fuel costs. However, turbines rely on wind capacity and, when built offshore, are expensive to construct, and are harder to look after.  It would seem that these factors have put off investors and much government support in the past.

As much as the majority of the public wants Britain to use sustainable energy, while major energy companies stand firm on reliance on non-renewable resources, it may be a while until Britain fully embraces the ‘greener’ alternatives on offer.

Dangers of fracking

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Categories: Europe

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One Comment on “Fracking: Where Britain Stands”

  1. September 2, 2014 at 2:55 am #

    Better a blot on the landscape than carcinogenic blots in your drinking water. Good post. Thanks.

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