The Coalition Government, including, with enthusiasm, the LibDems, is proceeding gung ho with the mad experiment of breaking up the geology under large parts of the UK. We are either already past or close to the tipping point for climate change (i.e. the point beyond which we irreversibly change the eco-system that sustains all life on the planet) and enough fossil fuel has already been located to ensure serious damage - the very last thing we need is to discover and extract even more fossil fuel. Ludicrous false choices are put forward by government for doing this – like burning natural gas extracted from shale is less damaging than burning coal (it almost certainly isn’t, when you take fugitive methane emissions into account); or we need to do this for energy security (much better to plan a future where we consume much less non-renewable energy).
Hydraulic fracturing is dangerous and dirty. The American experience is such that we can now be certain that our water supplies will be contaminated – it only takes one well in an aquifer (and shale gas extraction involves thousands of wells because each one dries up quickly) to leak the chemicals that are used or the fugitive methane and radioactive materials (Cuadrilla at Balcombe had to obtain a Radioactive Substances Regulation Environmental Permit) that would destroy our drinking water resource forever. This is especially important in the mid-Hants area which relies heavily on chalk aquifer supplies.
Of course the government and the corporations that pull the strings attempt to reassure us that everything will be done much better in the UK. ‘Trust us’ is their message. Remember that we are now in a period in which the environmental protection agencies have been deliberately emasculated by central government – they don’t speak up on the damage done by any development – they’ve been told not to. Remember that this is a government headed by a Prime Minister that believes all these concerns are ‘green crap’ and a Local Government Minister (Eric Pickles) who believes it is all ‘red tape’ to be cut. To trust the UK government to protect us against the abuses of the fracking corporations is the height of folly.
This is coming our way in Winchester and we should be ready to combat it. Sussex campaigners have been doing a really good job and have actually stopped an application to drill at Wisborough Green. We must be prepared to campaign to persuade our District Council to resist any applications brought forward in this area. They seem happy enough to intervene to stop renewable energy projects because of landscape impact yet this is probably nothing compared with the thousands of drilling rigs that a fracking field would engender.