DAVID BENNET

An earthquake is an occurrence one may expect to encounter in those equatorial regions of earth, at which tectonic plates meet and rub together at the behest of Mother Nature: this is not something one would expect to encounter in the illuminated seaside town of Blackpool.

However, in 2011, two such earthquakes did occur in the Blackpool area, with responsibility taken by Cuadrilla, the energy company conducting hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, at the time. Personally speaking, it is quite difficult to imagine any situation in which the causing of an earthquake would be justifiable, but surely there must be a legitimate reason?

Fast-forward to 2015, and we find the British government scrambling to amend the Infrastructure Bill before the next election in an attempt to deregulate the restrictions of fracking companies, like Cuadrilla. This would allow them to frack pretty much wherever they see fit, despite opposition from 99% of people asked in a poll (The Guardian, September 2014).

So in the face of all the dangers posed by fracking – such as earthquakes, contaminating drinking water with harmful chemicals, massive water wastage and most importantly the distinct lack of economic viability – why is the government so hell-bent on allowing this practice to be continued?

The government’s arguments for fracking appear to be cheaper energy prices and energy independence, yet both of these arguments are shown to be somewhat invalid when the surrounding circumstances come in to play. “The consensus seems to be that shale gas will not be [an economical] ‘game changer’ in the UK”, states the House of Commons in their own write-up on fracking.

Credit: Wikipedia
Credit: Wikipedia

“The Royal Society have reviewed the risks associated with fracking.” Stated parliament.uk’s official PDF on shale gas exploration prospects, continuing; “They concluded that the health, safety and environment risks can be managed effectively in the UK, by implementing and enforcing best operational practices.”

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, as quoted by The Guardian in March 2014, is certain that a “lack of understanding” is the reason for public opposition to fracking, and that by going ahead and digging wells, people will soon see how great it all is and “enthusiasm for it will grow.” Cameron’s stance seems to be one of patronising dismissal of his employers – the public – and a flippant “we know best” attitude.

Everywhere you look, the official statements regarding fracking are loaded with ambiguity, uncertainty and often outright dishonesty, all wrapped within the emotive concept of ‘bettering people’s futures’. The facts simply do not equate to such an ideological outcome.

The findings of the Royal Society – those of gas extraction being safe by ‘implementing best operational practices’ – in no way helps to enlighten the public on the history of the terrible, incompetent operational practices conducted by the shale gas companies. And when Cameron was speaking about ‘getting a few wells up and running, and people will become more enthusiastic’, he conveniently forgot about the whole ‘earthquakes in Blackpool’ thing.

Perhaps the reasons for such insistence upon the use of fracking are far more conceited than any politician, government-funded organisation, or shale gas company would let on.

It may not take much of a stretch of the imagination to figure out the correlation between Britain and the west’s disintegrating relationships with fuel-producing regions. Russia, for example, was a massive supplier of gas to the European market via pipelines travelling through the now-tumultuous Ukraine; the very same Russia whom the west have branded as the latest super-evil.

Ukraine itself is known to hold massive gas reserves within its landmass, thus making it suspiciously coincidental for the U.S. to be meddling in its seemingly unrelated conflict; not to mention the son of U.S. vice president Joe Biden being on the board of a Ukrainian shale gas company.

The rise of the so-called Islamic State and their capturing of Iraqi oil fields further brings into quandary the push for shale gas in Britain. And the fact that Saudi Arabian oil is still a factor may unravel the strange occurrence of the west openly supporting the Saudi regime, who publicly behead ‘criminals’ on an alarmingly regular basis, yet condemn the ISIS beheadings as the world’s worst atrocities.

This chaotic tip of the international fuel politics iceberg all leads back to the UK government’s insistence that fracking – despite it causing earthquakes – is a great idea. It is NOT a great idea. Perhaps a greater idea would be to have a government which didn’t go around the world destroying international relations out of pure arrogance and landing all the consequences on its own people.

Regardless of all this, fracking only serves to take the attention away from the real solution to all fuel problems, and a large proportion of environmental problems, too: green energy.

On February 10th, 2015, Adam Vaughan wrote a piece for The Guardian, entitled ‘UK spent 300 times more on fossil fuels than clean energy despite green pledge’. The title alone highlights the government’s attitude towards fixing the energy problem.

"The Tories and Lib Dems [coalition]”, said Vaughan, “promised in 2010 that UK Export Finance (UKEF), a small government department, would ‘become champions for British companies that develop and export innovative green technologies around the world’.”

However, since the current government undemocratically came to power, UKEF has “given just £3.6m to green energy projects”, whereas fossil fuel energy operations have been “allocated £1.16bn.”

Wave power, wind turbines, solar panelled roads and a plethora of other innovative technologies designed to harness the power of earth, in alignment with the earth, are the obvious way forward (though it would be hard to justify charging people for the infinite energy of the sun).

Fracking is in no way a clean or sustainable energy source, and to conduct exploration in the volume it would take to be economically viable on a piece of land as small as Britain, would mean breaking up the land until it crumbles into some fracking earthquake-induced chasm.