MOST people, I’m sure, have heard of fracking — or to give it its full name, hydraulic fracturing.
If you are unsure what fracking is, basically it’s a process which involves drilling deep down into the earth and injecting shale rock with a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to release the gas inside.
Estimates suggested there could be as much as 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas lying under 11 counties in central and northern England. This would equate to more than 500 years of gas supply for Britain and has been declared by some as a miracle for the future of our energy supply. However, fracking is far more complicated than that.
There are two major problems regarding fracking — both with devastating long and short-term environmental impacts.
First off, fracking can produce earthquakes. After test drilling in Lancashire in 2011, two small earthquakes of 1.5 and 2.2 magnitude hit the Blackpool area. A study afterwards said it was “highly probable” that shale gas test drilling triggered the tremors.
Secondly, fracking uses huge amounts of water at significant environmental cost. It’s possible that fracking involves potentially carcinogenic chemicals which may escape and contaminate groundwater. Worryingly, the government has allowed fracking companies to drill through aquifers which provide household drinking water.
Underpinning all this has been the Tory government’s relentless drive to make Britain a frack-friendly country. In 2014 Cameron said that the government was going “all out for shale.”
The government has said that widespread fracking in Britain would bring energy bills down but even fracking company Cuadrilla has admitted that any impact on bills would be “basically insignificant.”
Fans of fracking say that homegrown gas would be better than importing gas but there is nothing to guarantee that any gas fracked in Britain would necessarily stay here. If companies can earn more by selling gas abroad, the nature of capitalism says they will.
In August 2015, the government also announced it would step in and fast-track fracking if local authorities were deemed to be moving too slowly on the issue.
Cameron pledged to allow English local authorities to take all the business rates collected from shale gas schemes, rather than the usual 50 per cent, thus virtually bribing councils to push for fracking.
After sustained pressure from the public, including a 150,000-strong Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth petition, Lancashire County Council decided to block fracking in the county.
However, the government decided to ride roughshod over democracy and overturn the decision.
Once again this shows that given the choice between the people and big business, the Tories will always choose their richer chums in the latter.
This is some of the overriding evidence against fracking and why the the UN Environment Programme says even if fracking is done properly, it may cause unavoidable environmental impacts.
Climate change is real. At least 97 per cent of scientists agree that global temperatures have increased during the past 100 years and 84 per cent say they personally believe this is human-induced.
Quite simply climate change deniers have links with big business and want us to stick with the status quo. Talk about short-termism.
Even if there were real doubts about climate change, it would be prudent to change our energy policies to be on the safe side.
We have been told that the gas from fracking is a bridging fuel between coal and a low-carbon future.
But it is the wrong direction as we simply don’t have time to go down a bridging fuel road.
According to research published in the journal Nature last year, 82 per cent of coal, 49 per cent of gas and 33 per cent of oil must stay in the ground if the global temperature rise is to be kept under the 2°C ceiling — the widely agreed maximum increase in temperature thought to avoid the most serious effects of global warming.
Although gas releases less carbon dioxide than coal (which adds to the greenhouse effect and increases global warming), supporters of fracking are burying their heads in the sand if they seriously think it is the way forward for energy.
Let’s not forget, natural gas is mostly methane, which has strong global warming impacts in its own right.
In the dash for gas, alternative energies are being sidelined.
The Tories have cut subsidies for solar panels on homes while fossil fuels enjoy £27 billion a year in subsidies, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Britain is the only G7 nation increasing fossil fuel subsidies, which of course shows us where the Tories’ priorities are.
We cannot continue down the same path we are on and we can’t rely on the free market to solve global climate change.
Governments worldwide have to do more by investing in alternative renewable energy.
We also need to realise fracking is another deception of global corporations who see it as a shortcut to massive profits while damning the consequences for us all.
– Rick Evans
First published in The Morning Star newspaper