Tensions Frac-tious over UK Energy Future

By Riley Maxwell

Is fracking worth backing?

On Sunday 18th August 2013 it is estimated that 1,000 demonstrators set up camps in West Sussex protesting against fracking. The process of fracking involves pumping water and chemicals into the ground to break up rock/shale and release gas for energy production. The exploratory drilling firm Cuadrilla has found itself at the centre of this issue as the company is constructing a test well in the area to enable it to extract samples of rock from about 3,000 ft below the beautiful South Downs. Cuadrilla suspended its activity yesterday in anticipation of this protest.

Critics of the process of fracking range from prestigious figures such as Dame Vivienne Westwood the fashion designer, to environmental organisations such as the RSPB. They voice legitimate concerns over the impact exploratory drilling and pumping gases into the earth will have on the environment as well as the fact, a focus on this type of energy production will divert funds and attention from developing the industry of clean energy production. The Church of England has also weighed in, warning against ‘the ‘profiteering cowboys who are digging up countryside,’ and reminded their congregation they must be the earth’s stewards.

However, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Tory ministers have encouraged the UK public to support fracking and Cuadrilla because by exploiting Britain’s vast reserves of shale, it could boost economy, reduce energy prices and potentially create job opportunities. Furthermore, it cannot be ignored that producing gas domestically in the UK is much cheaper than having to import it from the Middle East or other places. In a time of tough economic hardship it is unsurprising the government has adopted this stance.

Fracking has sparked widespread controversy as arguments for and against fracking are synonymous with the arguments for and against a ‘green’ approach on the whole.  The polarisation of opinion over fracking can be summarised as environment versus economy. Should we protect our environment no matter what the economic cost to the taxpayer? Is maintaining the right for future generations to have access to a healthy environment more important than ensuring the economic right of the present generation to affordable energy?

In the current economic hardship, the challenges of energy crisis and climate change are becoming even more complicated. Despite the intensification of the energy crisis as we exhaust fossil fuels supplies and the fact the consequences of climate change become ever more relevant and apparent, the commitment of governments worldwide to the production of clean energy remains somewhat lacklustre and incoherent. Germany, the driving force behind the implementation of ‘green’ policies in Europe has ten new coal plants currently in service or are likely to be within the next year according to the German environmental group Deutsche Umwelthlife. The Tory government is confident that fracking can offer provide cost-effective energy from Britain’s vast reserves of shale.

If an economic powerhouse like Germany is taking advantage of cheap energy prices, why shouldn’t we?




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