Following the summer’s fracking fiasco, the issue seemed to have all but simmered down, only to come bubbling back to the surface in recent weeks with the news that changes in legislation could see fracking happening beneath our very own houses without our say-so.
If such headline-grabbing claims force people to reconsider fracking then all the better, but this is more than a ‘not in my backyard’ debate. Fracking would be as much of a disaster for in the ‘desolate North-East’ (where nobody lives, just to clarify Lord Howell’s baffling statement) as anywhere else.
Fracking is the process by which a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is injected into wells at high pressure to crack shale and release gas. This tops up our dwindling supply of fossil fuels, gives people jobs, kick-starts the economy, and is even ‘green’ (when compared to burning coal, if not much else).
Or so some would have it. Unsurprisingly, there are also a few drawbacks, primarily that the positive effects might not actually happen and the negative ones far outweigh them.
An understanding of the economy sufficient to predict whether fracking will indeed lower energy prices is not something we all possess, a fact that politicians seem all too willing to take advantage of.
Thankfully some of those who do are speaking out. Former secretary of state for energy, Chris Huhne, (in the Guardian) convincingly challenged Cameron’s ‘fracking fairytale’ explaining why shale gas in the UK would not prompt a drop in energy prices as it has in the US.
As far as jobs are concerned the majority would be tied to the initial set-up of the wells, and would quickly cease to exist.
Gas may be ‘greener’ than coal, but squeezing the earth dry is not a solution to a growing population’s need for viable and sustainable fuel.
Research into the potentially catastrophic side-effects of fracking remains scarce (likely no coincidence), but certain implications require little more than common sense to understand.
Energy companies are not required to disclose the chemicals used in fracking fluid, but many are confirmed carcinogens and toxins.
Of the millions of gallons of fracking fluid required per fracture typically less than half is recovered. The rest flows into groundwater. Which enters our water system. And grows the plants and feeds the livestock. That is, of course, if everything runs smoothly without any major mishaps.
For those who cannot bear Daily Mail style, wild, cancer-related speculations, you are in luck – the US has conveniently carried out a fracking test-run.
Numerous reports of disease-ridden cattle and entire families’ severe allergic reactions in affected regions confirm concerns for the harmful nature of fracking’s dregs, which contains substances linked to infertility and birth defects.
Settlement deals often seem to include a water filtering kit, or sometimes a gag order banning you from spreading nasty rumours concerning the companies that poisoned you.
The arguments against fracking, according to energy minister Greg Barker, are based on ideology as opposed to science. But, pumping chemicals into the ground for the benefit of multinational energy giants is a cowardly, short-term alternative to investing in renewable energy and waste reduction. Even if science could not confirm the irreversible, long-term consequences for our health and environment, ideology puts up a pretty good fight.
As the Church of England have asserted, opponents of fracking are like scaremongers who spread misinformation about the MMR vaccine. Apart from the the fact that the alternative to the vaccine is a measles epidemic, and the alternative to fracking is, well, not fracking.
As is all too often the story in politics: short term greed is taking precedent over long term investment, and our withered planet and its future generations will be the ones to pay.
Illustration: Dominic Chappard