Fracking, shale gas drilling, hydraulic fracturing; whatever you want to call it, it's just not going away. The subject has been debated in the United Kingdom for years now with some seeing it as the future of energy dependency and others opposing it vehemently due to potential dangers to the environment and the impact on local communities. This has been particularly the case in the north west of England at locations in Blackpool and Salford where much of the shale gas drilling will take place.
The debate has gathered momentum over recent months, with the government looking to amend anti-trespassing laws in order to allow the drilling to take place underneath resident's land. This was, as expected, confirmed in the Queen's Speech earlier this week and will be set in stone within three months as the government irons out the final consultations. This would have been completed even sooner had prime minister Cameron not been afraid of a rebellion from many of his backbenchers.
Indeed, parliament as a whole seems to have been well behind fracking for some time now with the House of Lords labelling its widespread implementation as an 'urgent national priority'.
Widespread Support for Fracking in the UK...
Academics and nationally acclaimed scientists have also been having their say on the issue, highlighting the "undeniable economic benefits" of the process. Their views came almost as a response to a host of celebrities, including Sir Paul McCartney, openly criticising fracking and calling for all drilling to be halted. The week has seen two clear sides to the debate emerge but there will seemingly only be one winner with all the big decision makers being fully behind the controversial process.
So convinced are the UK's academics that fracking should be fast tracked, that they wrote an open letter to the Guardian conveying their thoughts. Although the document was the brainchild of the North West Energy Task Force, a subsidiary of British Gas' parent company Centrica and therefore has a clear motive, the message was clear. Politicians and decision makers in the industry should put aside their differences and get fracking implemented for the good of the nation's economic stability and the environment, they stated. The concern is that at present, it can take up to a year for shale gas drilling to get through the required red tape, as opposed to two weeks in the USA where fracking has been a resounding success.
The benefits to the UK economy of ensuring fracking commences sooner rather than later are pretty obvious. With the tensions in Eastern Europe showing little sign of subsiding, there are growing concerns over our energy independence in the long term, particularly with regard to gas. The price of natural gas in the USA has dropped sharply since fracking has been implemented; a trend that would surely be welcomed here in the UK as energy prices continue to be a contentious issue.
What Are The Arguments Against Fracking?
Environmentalists and local residents have understandably been up in arms about fracking due to the fact that the water used when fracturing the rock underground could well turn out to be toxic. Add to that the fact that the countryside doesn't have the infrastructure to cater for huge lorries carrying large amounts of gas and the actual apparatus needed for drilling, and one can see why people would not want fracking going on in their backyard.
Indeed, when fracking tests took place near Blackpool back in 2011, tremors were felt in the local area leading many locals to grow increasingly concerned at the effect the drilling will have. The shale gas drilling company Cuadrilla stated that it was "unlikely to happen again" and to date, this has been the case, but this may well be due to lack of activity. Should fracking work recommence in the area, there is a strong chance that the earth tremors could return.
Another concern is that the area of drilled land can deteriorate over time and lead to the destruction of nearby properties. A house in Poland, situated over five miles from a fracking site was then pulled to the ground when there were geological shifts. With residential areas in Blackpool and Salford, Manchester lying very close to potential shale gas sites, these types of story are fuelling much of the opposition to fracking in the UK.
Resistance Is Futile...
Despite all of these concerns, the aforementioned developments in parliament and the rubber stamp provided from the Queen's Speech all seem to be pointing to the same thing, the fact that fracking will be successfully implemented in the UK in due course. Indeed, Prime Minister Cameron has already moved to justify any future work by stating that drilling work should not adversely affect anyone's land but if it does, they will be compensated appropriately. Drilling work, he says, will take place 300 metres beneath ground level, which should be far enough so as not to pose a problem. Whether this is proved to be the case remains to be seen, which many feel is playing a bit of a lottery with people's property and land.
With both sides of the fracking argument having very valid points, it is down to the individual to make their mind up about one of the most debated issues on the political agenda. Whichever side you decide to take however, one must surely be prepared to see shale gas drilling starting in the United Kingdom sooner rather than later. Home and business energy customers alike will surely be hoping that they see the benefits through their bills in the coming years.
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