Not a long-term solution
In February, Minister Greg Clark will decide the outcome of Cuadrilla’s appeal against Lancashire County Council’s refusal of planning permission for two fracking sites.
The final decision has been removed from the planning inspector because fracking is of major importance to the government, and that apparently overrules David Cameron’s assertion that “these decisions must be made by local authorities under the planning system”.
There are many arguments for and against fracking. It will provide jobs. It will contaminate water supplies. It will bring energy security. It could cause earthquakes. It is cleaner than coal. It will provide energy. And so on.
However, the fundamental objection to fracking is not if something will go wrong (it will), or even that the government is overstepping its bounds to secure the outcome they want. The main problem is that fracking should not be of major importance at all.
If the government wants to keep the lights on long term, they need to find another solution.
According to the survey by the British Geological Survey (BGS), there could be up to 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas under Northern England.
David Cameron said this could provide energy for 51 years, but Professor Peter Styles puts the figure at 25 years, based on the amount that is likely to be extracted and rate of consumption.
That’s not so long that we need to worry about the world our grandchildren will inherit, that’s so short that we need to worry about the world we will inherit.
Back to those 1,300 trillion cubic feet. It seems a lot, doesn’t it? In fact, it is more than half the amount of all the natural gas which was estimated to exist in the United States as of 2013, 2,276 trillion cubic feet (US Energy Information Administration).
The US estimate is for all natural gas in the entire USA, but according to the BGS, we have more than half of that amount sitting under just part of northern England, a country which is smaller than the state of California.
I’m not a geologist by training, and I realise that if shale gas is anything like oil then one can expect large deposits under a comparatively small surface area, but more than half of what the US has? Twenty five years begins to sound a bit optimistic.
It doesn’t seem like enough to justify the environmental, social, and economic fallout. Fracking will generate jobs, up to 5,600 jobs at peak production, but only 1,700 of those in the area (Energy UK). But that industry already has an end in sight.
Does the government have a plan for when the boom goes bust and all those people are out of work? Shouldn’t the government be coming up with a long-term plan now? At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change last year, the government agreed to do just that.
All parties agreed to work to limit greenhouse gas emissions, limit global temperature rises, and to work to adapt to climate change. The agreement is a very legalistic 32 pages, so maybe the ministers overlooked that bit.
Fracking is not part of the low-emission, low-carbon future.
Methane leakage is a problem, as is water contamination from run-off or various other potential surface leaks. It is not a question of if fracking could have negative repercussions for the environment, it is when and how bad?
Ever since prehistoric humans first burned down their home with a cooking fire, providing light and heat carries risk. ExxonValdez. Deepwater Horizon. Fossil fuels risk the air we breathe and the water we drink.
I am as fond of lights and heating as anyone else, and if it was shale gas or nothing, I’d probably say yes. But it is not, not yet. The gas isn’t going anywhere. Why not leave it where it is in case one day we really need it? While we have time, the government should be looking at the alternatives, funding research and industries which can offer a long-term alternative to fossil fuels. And figuring out how we can lower our energy needs. After all, a lot of us will still be here in 25 years.
SM Myers via email
Stand up for Armed Services
I am outraged that greedy soulless law firms are harassing members of our brave armed services.
Our troops go to inhospitable dangerous places and witness terrible events that no-one should see and they are prepared to selflessly lay down their lives for our freedom.
Heaven knows they are not the highest paid people in the world and appallingly thousands of veterans, scarred mentally and physically, end up living on the streets of this country, barely getting by.
Now to make matters worse, unscrupulous law firms are increasingly suing soldiers for alleged war crimes and abuse while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Office-bound pen-pushers trying to gain money on the back of our troops’ bravery.
These soldiers have to make split-second life-or-death decisions on a daily basis and find themselves having to shoot or be shot themselves. They should not also face accusations from ambulance-chasing lawyers.
And what nonsense that a sniper is under investigation for killing a Iraqi insurgent – who was about to hurl grenade at a military base – without shouting a warning first! Wouldn’t that rather defeat the purpose of snipers?
The Government needs to demonstrate its support for our Armed Services and stand up for them as they stand up for us.
Paul Nuttall, UKIP North West MEP
and deputy party leader