It's understandable why the people of Balcombe are unhappy. Not to mention the people of the "desolate" North West and North East. I don't think I would want a fracking operation on my doorstep either.
Now please don't misunderstand me. I am as much in favour of using sustainable energy sources as the next twenty one year old, not least because, very soon, we are going to be faced with a situation where a group of miners are going to emerge from the coal face, shake their heads grimly and report that there ain't no more down there. As a world and a civilisation we desperately need to move away from fossil fuels.
And on many levels I can understand the appeal of fracking. There are enough untapped pockets of natural gas to last us for a decade or more, it creates jobs - very important right now - and it isn't too complicated. Essentially, you insert water and extract gas. The pluses are there for all to see.
But unfortunately so are the minuses. Fracking involves shooting a mixture of pressurised water and sand down a well shaft at very high speeds and essentially "fracturing" the rock underneath (hence fracking's full name of "hydraulic fracturing") thus releasing the gas. Unfortunately, doing this comes with all sorts of side effects that no community would want to deal with. For one thing, natural gas isn't the only thing released during the fracking process and the various harmful chemicals that are also released tend to find their way into the local water table. There are also concerns about the side effects of the chemicals used during fracking process itself, including such things as benzene, uranium and hydrochloric acid. All this before we get into what repeated fracking does to the geological stability of the local area.
I am all in favour of the government looking into alternative energy resources, but at the moment it seems as if they are looking for the quick solution, the quick fix. That's not what the energy crisis needs. We don't need to put something in place that will fix problems now only to create bigger ones in future. We still have time to invest in ways that we know work, such as wind power, and work out all the kinks involved with them. After all, for all its flaws, at least a wind turbine doesn't dump radium into the local drinking water.
As I have said, on the surface fracking seems like the perfect solution. But once you dig a bit deeper you discover that this is just another example of the Coalition looking for the easiest and flashiest solution so that they can claim they have done something without actually having to put in any of the hard work involved in coming up with a properly thought out answer to the problems we are facing.
The government needs to listen to the people of Balcombe and look at the data again. If after that, fracking is still the best solution, then they can go right ahead and start, with my blessing. But until then, can they please just frack right off.