Why We Oppose Fracking
The world still has vast amounts of fossil fuel reserves. The impact on our planet will be catastrophic if even a fraction of these remaining reserves are burnt. We need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and make much lighter demands on the ecosystem. The typhoons, storm surges, heat waves, forest fires, and droughts of 2013 point to what the future could be like if we do not act, and quickly.
We believe that the priority should be for everyone to reduce the amount of energy we use, and to draw what energy we do use as far as possible from renewable sources (see, for example, the Zero-Carbon Britain report). But this is very far from what is actually happening. Instead, we are seeing a rush to exploit extreme energy resources. Extreme energy resources are those that would previously have been too dangerous or too expensive to exploit, but which are now becoming profitable as energy prices rise.
Extreme energy is by definition dangerous. Most of the safer resources are now close to being used up. The extreme techniques being used include deep water drilling, tar sands extraction, hydraulic fracturing, coal bed methane extraction, and underground coal gasification. These techniques are all associated with dangers to health and the environment. The difficulty of deep water drilling was at the root of the explosion on BP’s drilling rig Deep Water Horizon, which led to the largest accidental marine oil spill in history. Hydraulic fracturing has introduced noxious chemicals into aquifers, poisoned workers, and led to drinking water being impregnated with methane. An experiment in underground coal gasification was recently stopped in Queensland, Australia, after dangerous chemicals were found in groundwater.
Extreme energy exploitation is dangerous to human health and to the environment. It brings relatively little sustainable local employment, and is short term and shortsighted. We realise that the excellent engineers from the north-east’s schools and colleges might come up with ways to make these techniques less risky. But they cannot change the consequences of expanding fossil fuel use for the ecosystem overall. Catastrophic climate change is overwhelmingly likely if we don’t reduce our impact on the planet. These fuels must be left in the ground if we are not to face catastrophic climate change.