You’ve likely heard about fracking (extracting oil and gas from underground shale rock) and the protests that surround it, then others saying it provides jobs etc. So what is fracking, what’s wrong with it and what are the alternatives?
Fracking involves drilling a vertical well underground, then turning the drill sideways and pumping in water and chemicals at high pressure to open up fractures, so oil and gas can be found to sell. Most of our natural shale is in the south and north, which is why there have been mass protests in Sussex and Lancashire as MPs have supported the drilling for oil in areas where they likely don’t live themselves. Despite the popularity before, the influx of ‘red wall’ MPs in the 2019 election has meant many are now wary of having fracking in the constituencies they represent, knowing that doing so could lead to them losing their seats at the next election.
It’s not unexpected that shooting massive amounts of water, sand, and chemicals at high pressure into the earth to shatter shale and release natural gas might shake things up. But earthquakes aren’t the worst problem with fracking. David Suzuki (environmental professor)
Nearly all senior MPs in the present government live nowhere near areas where fracking could be reinstated. In one of her first decisions as the short-lived Prime Minister, Liz Truss lifted the ban on fracking, even though she lives nowhere near where the action would have affected her. In fact, her ban was instrumental in her losing the job she had only been elected to, 44 days before.
Fracking extracts gas, so it would still emit greenhouse gas, and due to the way the energy market is set up (highest bidders and all that) it would not provide cheap energy either. And compared to the US, we have miniscule amounts of land available for fracking anyway. So even if was safe, it would still do little to help. In fact, the opposite is true. Present fracking projects so far carried out have been dropped, one in 2011 after it caused two earth tremors. Fracking also pollutes the groundwater (therefore our tap water), air and is known to cause health problems. In the US, flammable methane has caused bubbling from kitchen taps, with the risk of flammable explosions. Other concerns are cancer and birth defects.
the best alternatives to fracking
Einstein said you can’t solve a problem, with the same thinking that created it. In other words, just ‘replacing oil with nuclear and gas with solar’ is not the answer. The answer is to get rid of the obsession with economic growth, and have new economics based on simple sustainable living, this is the way to drastically reduce climate change and energy use.
We should be able to walk to shops, not rely on supermarkets that cause 25% of road traffic (oil) to transport food from central distribution houses that is kept in vast fridges (which use oil) and then have us drive out-of-town (oil) to get there. Offering free insulation to all homes would keep them warmer and cooler with less heating (so less oil). You get the idea. A seachange of policy and thinking, is the way to reduce energy use, not just by finding replacements for today’s excessive ways of living, which seems to need oil for everything.
In 2018, three peaceful protestors (including a piano restorer) became the first eco campaigners (they didn’t even drop any litter) to receive a prison sentence since the 1990s. Released on appeal, one protestor said a fellow inmate told him ‘I’m in here because I’m greedy, you’re here because you care about the planet’.