Fracking and renewables
As this is a General Election year, we will be seeing plenty of promises but very little action. MP’s have already voted on Monday 26th Jan, rejecting an amendment to the Infrastructure Bill which would have called for a ban on fracking. Click here for more
It is a very divisive issue – the pro’s say it is cleaner than coal and can act as a ‘bridge’ to a low-carbon future, whilst the con’s say it is incompatible with tightening global climate restrictions, especially ahead of the December 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.
What is fracking?
Hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, is a technique designed to recover gas and oil from shale rock, by drilling down into the earth before directing a high-pressure mixture of water, sand , and chemicals at the rock to release the gas inside.
Why is it controversial?
- It uses large amounts of water
- Clean water is used and energy is required to purify the water before reuse or disposal
- It uses chemicals
- This must be transported to the fracking site
- These are injected, along with sand and water, into the rock
- The worry is that these potentially carcinogenic chemicals could escape and contaminate surrounding groundwater
- Its opponents claim it can cause earth tremors
- Two small earthquakes hit the Blackpool area in 2011 following fracking
- It still involves the extraction of fossil fuels
- Whilst fossil fuel can be profitably extracted, energy companies are less likely to invest in new unproven green technologies such as tidal energy.
- Moreover, the companies involved (e.g. Cuadrilla) have already sunk money into testing, so will be unlikely to pull out unless it is economically unviable
“Shale gas is not the solution to the UK’s energy challenges,” said Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth. “We need a 21st century energy revolution based on efficiency and renewables, not more fossil fuels that will add to climate change.”
- Shale gas is too enticing for the UK government to ignore
- The prospect of a cheap energy source – and shale gas is less polluting than diesel – on our doorstep NOW is far too valuable to the UK according to the government
- In all probability, it seems that shale gas will be used as a “stepping stone” until renewables become mainstream
- Low oil prices will delay ‘green policies’
- The problem is that low oil prices affect the economics of renewable energy projects, slowing down progress
- The lack of firm commitment and the political games from the government and opposition parties means that fossil fuels (either oil or shale gas) will continue to dominate for longer than was hoped
- Climate change policies will suffer as a result
- Factor in the ever-increasing pollution from the developing countries, struggling with economic recovery, together with the pursuit of shale gas in the US & UK, and you have a worsening problem
- In theory, the UK government should put all its efforts in renewables if we are to have any chance of making a difference
- However, in practice, with a huge public deficit, a General Election looming, and the need to reduce our reliance on external energy, fracking looks likely to be pushed through when it becomes profitable again
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