You may or may not be aware of this already but there is a major environmental controversy at the moment in our local area which has frequently been making national headlines over the past couple of years. I am referring to hydraulic fracturing industry in the UK, which may involve Cuadrilla, the leading company in the industry, setting up several more wells across rural Lancashire.
Hydraulic fracturing, better known as ‘fracking’ is a method of gas extraction from shale rock deep underground which involves the use of fluid mixed with toxic chemicals being injected into drilling wells to extract shale gas. Fracking is very likely to take place in other parts of the UK. However, there is widespread opposition to fracking from environmental groups, local residents, farmers, and private businesses of all sizes. I too am opposed to fracking for many reasons but I will only discuss a handful.
Fracking may have serious environmental consequences which I do not believe are worth risking. They may include ground contamination as a result of toxic fluid being injected into the earth, air pollution as a result of potentially harmful gases being released into the atmosphere, water pollution if the toxic fluid ever leaks from containers whilst in storage or being taken to storage, and also the use of millions of gallons of water which of course is vital for ordinary everyday life to take place. Although Cuadrilla have promised to reduce the environmental risks involved, these risks are still too big to take since accidents will inevitably happen with the best safeguards. Even if fracking was completely safe, a fully fledging fracking industry would see the patchwork of agricultural land and environmental habitats that form our countryside seriously damaged and would ruin priceless rural views.
The economic consequences for areas involved in fracking would also not be worth risking because the damage done to local economies could be permanent. Ground and water contamination would seriously damage the agricultural sector in areas of fracking because farmers could lose livestock and crops, as well as have the fruits of their labour boycotted for the mere chance that they could be contaminated. I certainly wouldn’t want to eat food which may be exposed to contamination. Other consequences include a fall in house prices because not many people are going to want to be surrounded by fracking sites, a decline in small rural industries which have existed for centuries, and also damage to the British tourist sector. Areas proposed for fracking, such as the Fylde coast, attract thousands if not millions of tourists every year.
The supporters of fracking argue that fracking would create cheap, affordable energy enough to light London for 50 years although I suspect that fracking companies will want to make shale gas expensive in the long term to maximise their profits, and that Britain will run out of shale gas in our lifetimes since it is a non-renewable energy source. Proponents also argue that it would be a major boost to local economies, but it must not be forgotten that the local economies are largely rural and would find it very difficult to adjust to the hydraulic fracturing industry.
On a social level, a fully fledged fracking industry could be very disruptive because local communities could be radically changed as a result of environmental and economic implications that I have mentioned and I also fear that rapid changes in our countryside would inflict damage on local communities and British rural culture and traditions.
Therefore, I would like to see a wholesale ban in the UK, to keep Britain as the ‘green and pleasant land’ it is known for whilst we create an environmentally friendly economy. Too many people have forgotten that we humans are part of nature, which is an interconnected and complex web that we must always try to respect. However, I believe that the best methods of campaigning for a ban involve intellectual debate, co-operation between campaigners and the authorities and, most importantly, those working in the law. I will be waiting nervously for the verdict by Lancashire County Council on 30 April on whether these two fracking sites in Lancashire should get the go-ahead.