Fracking – or, to give its technical term, hydraulic fracturing – is a process to get at oil and gas contained within shale rocks. Water, sand and a cocktail of chemicals are blasted deep underground to release the oil or gas trapped within the rocks.
As reserves of more conventional oil and gas have dwindled, fracking is seen as a way of extracting even more of these polluting fuels. This has led to a fracking boom in the US, which the UK and other countries are keen to copy.
But energy experts say that much of the gas we’ve already found needs to stay in the ground. Otherwise we won’t be able to meet our emission reduction targets and limit the effects of climate change. So it doesn’t make sense to go after even more, especially as fracked fuels can be even more damaging to the climate than regular oil and gas. That’s because fracking uses more energy to extract it than conventional oil and gas, and because fracked gas appears to leak more into the atmosphere. Gas itself is a greenhouse gas so the overall climate impact it produces is greater.
Fracking has so many problems
Not only is fracking bad for our climate, it risks causing air, water and sound pollution. It uses toxic chemicals where regulation may not be adequate. An accident could mean that these chemicals leak into water supplies or cause pollution above ground. In fact, this has happened many times in the US. The UK government claims that our tighter environmental laws will stop this from happening, but fracking companies like Cuadrilla will be largely responsible for monitoring themselves. Allowing the fracking industry to be self-regulating is asking for trouble.
On top of all this, the impact on the British countryside could be enormous. Thousands of wells will be needed to produce just half of the UK’s gas demand. This industrial operation would also require huge numbers of trucks delivering chemicals and taking away contaminated waste water. Fracking has been banned in our national parks, but companies are trying to get round this by using other techniques such as acid drilling. And Greenpeace investigations have shown that nearly 180,000 acres of protected land are included in drilling licences.
Fracking won’t even bring down our energy bills because the way the energy market works means any gas from fracking will be sold to the highest bidder, which won’t help reduce bills.
People don’t want it
People living near potential fracking sites have said loud and clear that they don’t want drilling in their local area. Attempts to drill in Sussex and Lancashire have been met with strong local opposition, while Scotland and Wales have effectively banned fracking.
Yet ministers in Westminster continue to support it. The local government secretary overturned a vote by Lancashire County Council refusing permission for Cuadrilla to drill there. And in 2018, three people were jailed for peacefully protesting Cuadrilla’s trucks. Although they were released on appeal, they are believed to have been the first environmental protesters to receive prison sentences since the 1990s.
The government is determined to force fracking on us, despite polls showing public opinion is dead set against. Experts have also said that economic, political and geological factors mean it will be impossible to replicate the US fracking boom elsewhere in the world. In fact, other countries such as Poland and China are running into problems with their attempts.
Instead of chasing after yet more fossil fuels, our government should be investing in renewable energy to help reduce emissions and tackle climate change. We’ll continue to push for clean energy solutions and support the protesters fighting to keep fracking out of our countryside.