Fracking: why we’ve lost the war


You’ve heard it all over the internet, the news, and television; ‘fracking’ is causing a public furore in the UK. Whilst incurring protests, MP arrests, and a huge lobbying campaign, the war is dying down and the greens are losing. Here’s why.

What is fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing, popularly shortened to fracking, describes the process whereby shale rock beneath the terrestrial surface releases methane gas as a result of a cocktail of chemicals, water, and sand being drilled into the rock at high pressure. Harnessed and directed into the power grid, the gas functions at a cheaper and arguably cleaner rate than coal.

By Zarateman (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Zarateman (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

What’s the problem? 

RSPB have expressed their concern for bird reserves in designated areas. Greenpeace have denied claims that gas is less polluting than coal. The Ramblers have confronted the industries attempts at spoiling the beautiful landscapes they roam.

Most environmental NGOs have made their voices heard in the media. Issues include noise pollution, water contamination, climate change, drought, visual and landscape disruption, ecosystem interruption, infrastructure developments, and seismic activity to name a few. Most importantly, drawing resources from the development of renewables and delaying our transition to dependency from 2030 to 2045. But seismic mapping has revealed that deposits of shale rock will last us over the next century, so pushing that date even further…

The benefits of fracking?

Fracking has been around for decades, but recently the industry has taken off, thanks to three major developments in horizontal drilling, new rock technology, and seismic mapping. Dieter Helm, professor of climate and energy at the University of Oxford, recently stated the benefits of the shale gas resources. He promotes the ideology that is ‘US energy revolution’, where deposits already stand at centuries long, economic benefits have decoupled the connection between oil and gas, and surplus is already being considered for export.

‘renewables in their current form are not going to make much difference to global warming in the next two decades… therefore, with Plan A clearly not going to work, the case for a new plan is overwhelming. Add in the change in “facts” and now is the time for a major rethink’.

– Dieter Helm

By Policy Network (BreakOut-9792) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Policy Network (BreakOut-9792) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 Regulations 

Either way, the government documents that issue the planning guidance have already revealed discrepancies that threaten the safety of the fracking industry. With ill-defined buffer zones, unspecified frequencies of ecological surveys, and unstated numbers of quiet-hours after noise levels are exceeded, there is question upon the validity of the application procedures. Furthermore, the document (available here) reveals that a huge number of regulatory authorities are involved in the planning and monitoring procedures, indicating that in order for any successful control on environmental impacts, a multi-disciplinary, strict-regulatory, thoroughly-collaborative approach is essential to protect our environment. And for this to happen, we need the planning to be transparent, for loop holes to be exposed, and for all parties to have a voice in the decision making.

There is no denying the economic importance of shale, alongside employment opportunities, community regeneration, and lowering gas prices. With so much potential underground, it seems like a few small cries won’t curb the titans. 

Advertisements