In light of the government’s decision last week, to ‘green light’ the practice of onshore gas drilling (fracking) here is my brief ‘non-expert’ look at the issues.
The drilling company ‘Cuadrilla’ had to stop ‘Fracking’ at several areas along the Fylde coast 18 months ago, due to concerns that it had caused minor earthquakes around the Blackpool area. Cuadrilla as you would expect, initially denied that their forcing of millions of litres of water, mixed with highly toxic chemicals deep into the earth in order to cause ‘mini’ earthquakes’ that then frees up gases, had anything to do with the goings on in Blackpool. Call me cynical, but Blackpool is not known for its earthquakes, but you never know, could just be a coincidence.
Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary has said that:
“It was now safe to resume exploration with tough new environmental controls to reduce the risk of seismic activity. It is essential that its development should not come at the expense of local communities or the environment. Fracking must be safe, and the public must be confident that it is safe. We are strengthening the stringent regime already in place with new controls around seismic risks. The controls will include a traffic light system, requiring operators to stop if seismic activity reaches magnitude 0.5 - well below an earthquake that could be felt at the surface, but higher than normal fracking levels.”
The suspension of Cuadrilla’s activities was only ever going to be a short term thing. The trillions of cubic feet of gas that supposedly lies under the UK was always going make politicians and energy company bosses salivate.
The issue of whether shale gas should or will be the answer to the UK’s growing energy consumption is not a dilemma for the political classes. Any debate around renewables or the environment is just a smokescreen - politicians couldn’t give a shit. It has already been decided that shale gas is the future, and no doubt that in a few years-time there will be countless ex MP’s sitting on the boards, or in consultancy roles at huge shale gas corporations.
The suggestion that shale gas will lead to cheaper energy is a down right lie. The same bullshit was fed to people when North Sea oil and gas was discovered - however, successive governments chose to spend the money on whatever they saw fit, and did not concern themselves with energy bills. So if nationalised industries could not pass cheaper energy prices onto the consumer, what chance is there that greedy businesses would?
The institute of directors have said that:
“If we are even half as successful as the shale gas revolution in the US, then this will be a great boost to Britain.”
Clearly they have a much different measure of success than most people. In financial terms, ‘fracking’ may have been a success in the US - what of the real cost? Anyone who is in any doubt of what ‘fracking’ could mean should watch the documentary ‘Gasland’, and see how animals, farmland, and the water supply have been poisoned, how people have got so much gas and (or) chemicals in their water supply that they can set it on fire as it comes out of the tap. It is also interesting how the governments have pushed through all kinds of ‘bills’ to support the fracking industry, and how they allow them to inject highly toxic, and in some cases banned chemicals into the ground.
How can injecting millions of litres of poison into the ground to free gas be safe? There can be no guaranteed control of how or where the chemicals re-surface, and to a lesser extent the same can be said for the gas. Watching gasland and seeing the fur of farm animals falling off should make us question it more, yet the government and Cuadrilla have done a good job in making ‘minor earthquakes’ the only issue of safety.
A point of interest that has emerged in the last week is that the government are intending on removing the power of local councils to have any say in whether ‘fracking’ is sanctioned in their areas. As fracking will be deemed to be a nationally significant infrastructure project - companies will be able to drill wherever they see fit.
Now the go-ahead has been given it is only a matter of time before the energy companies push their snouts in the trough. Only three days ago, the small Scottish village of Airth had a meeting of locals and councillors following the shock announcement that Dart Energy had plans to sink 100 wells in the area. The locals were even more shocked when Dart let slip that they had compulsory purchase orders in place, if needed.
Any campaign against such practices cannot be left to groups such as ‘Friends of the Earth’ and their ilk (no offence intended). The permission to frack regardless of safety has already been given. The time for lobbying and debate has passed. The group ‘Frack-Off’ have hit the nail on the head:
“This is an industry in its infancy in the UK. The companies involved are typically start-ups that are presently just burning investment cash and are very vulnerable to loss of confidence by investors. If enough pressure can be applied at these early stages we can easily create an environment in which the continuation of these projects is no longer viable. We need to identify our nearest proposed fracking sites and get organised. Local opposition is swelling in the Lancashire area, but people need to be alerted to the vast number of sites which the industry has in its sights nation-wide. Crucially, we are looking at an opportunity to crush the attempt at piloting this practice. A national campaign of direct action needs to be firmly focused in the Lancashire area. This is a real opportunity to kill-off a serious environmental threat. It is a battle with a very visible front line - and a battle which must be won.”
A short film - Fracking Hell: The Untold Story