Thursday, 13 December 2012

The frack is back

Fracking is back today in the UK. It has been reported that earthquakes were caused by fracking, so fracking was halted. New restrictions are in place to minimise the risk of seismic activity but it would be interesting to see the details of these restrictions as earthquakes are notoriously difficult to predict. It must be less difficult to attribute cause because that is what has been done with shale gas exploration. As for the restrictions, are they going to just create little explosions so that we don't get earthquakes? Are they going to gently 'inject' water, making it sound like a doctor is using a hypodermic needle, or will they still be using the phrase hydraulic fracturing which doesn't sound quite as nice.

Listening to Radio Lancashire this morning one listener felt we had to listen to facts, not opinions and then told us that water supplies would not be affected where the drilling is taking place because water does not run upwards. The contaminated water will simply drain away. However these are exploratory wells and there will be many more sites if drilling is successful - and water is contaminated in the USA. At some point the fields of shale gas must impose on water supplies.Yes water comes from the sky and falls on the ground but high pressure is moving water and gas to places where they shouldn't be going.

I have just read Schumacher's book Small is Beautiful which was written in the 1970s. He is an economist and looks closely at the environmental aspects of our planning. Generally the environmental aspects are ignored and success is based on whether a product is cheaper. We don't appear to have learned much in the last 40 years and we don't appear to be calculating the cost of seismic activity.

Is shale gas going to lower bills? This isn't likely as energy prices are controlled by global factors. If energy prices go up then shale gas prices will go up and profit will go to the private companies. In fact George Osborne is considering tax incentives for drilling companies

There are environmentalists who have many concerns about fracking. There are scientists who support  fracking who tell us that we have to use the shale gas resource. Schumacher's book made a lot of sense to me. He would be asking us to put a value on the environmental costs but these costs appear to be ignored. We continually strive for an expanding economy with expanding energy demands whilst using more and more of our limited resources. The standard answer is that those resources are there for using but we need to have reservations about the direction in which society is heading. Just because an energy supply is cheaper (without calculating the cost to the environment) doesn't mean that we have to take it.

Change the world

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