Hydraulic Fracturing – or ‘fracking’ is an intensive method of fossil fuel extraction which involves blasting tonnes of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to extract gas or oil. It happened in America (see the shocking documentary film Gasland and this post) and now my government want it to happen here. My prime minister is ridiculously keen, as are many cabinet ministers including the minister for the department of Energy and Climate Change. My MP on the other hand, was recently arrested while taking part in an anti-fracking protest. Respect, Lucas.
From the title of this post and my general attitude I think you can easily guess which side of the fence I’m on.
That’s right, fracking can fuck off as far as I’m concerned. And I’m here to tell you why.
- It totally contradicts our climate change obligations. More gas equals more carbon emissions, we’re meant to be weaning ourselves off this toxic stuff, not squeezing still more out of the ground. The dash for gas also diverts investment and public spending away from renewables, which is the direction we should be going in.
- The chemicals and gas can easily leak into the groundwater. This in turn can get into people’s drinking water if it leaks into aquifers. In my county, 75% of the tap water comes from underground aquifers. The Environmental Agency has actually said fracking near aquifers shouldn’t be allowed as it poses too much of a health hazard.
- The process is incredibly water intensive, and could cause water shortages just due to the sheer volume required. From an environmental perspective, this is a terrible use for a precious resource. In hot or arid countries this issue would obviously be much worse.
- Fracking can also cause earth tremors, which are basically small earthquakes. One has already happened in Blackpool and my local council is opposed to local fracking because they’re worried tremors could affect the London to Brighton railway line, which is an economic lifeline to my city as it’s full of professional commuters to the Big Smoke.
- David Cameron, my prime minister, has claimed fracking will lower gas prices. This is clearly just a ploy to get struggling families on board, as there is little evidence to suggest this. Even Caudrilla, a major drilling company, admitted it won’t lower domestic prices. This is because the UK shares an integrated energy network with the whole EU, so the drilling companies will sell the gas (or oil) to the highest bidder in Europe. From an environmental perspective, this means even more pollution from long distance transport.
- The economic effects of fracking aren’t even 100% rosy, as drilling sites will lower nearby house prices and residents may even struggle to get house insurance, due to the high risk levels.
- Industrialisation of the British countryside will have huge detrimental effects for wildlife, the tourism industry and also national heritage. Increased traffic from lorries and trucks will contribute to congestion and air pollution.
Since lower prices and increased security aren’t guaranteed (because of the export to EU system), the only real benefits from fracking are job creation and a boost to economic growth. But as my recent posts about post-growth economics have shown, economic growth isn’t actually beneficial when you look at the big picture. That just leaves job creation, which is a significant benefit – I can’t argue with that. I can only say that a revolution in renewable energy would create just as many jobs, if not more.
So there we go.