Across the world governments across the world are looking to get energy as cheaply as possible. Their electorates demand it and their industries require it. Of course, there is always a trade-off between getting something cheaply and getting something with plenty of unintended consequences in terms of damage.
The latest wheeze that the United Kingdom government has thought of is to try to bribe local electorates to permit the extraction of shale gas from underground rock (fracking) by promising them some money. Of course. all the money that the government is promising is no more than the money which already belongs to the people that is to say tax money. However by suggesting that local councils may keep all of the business rates collected from the exploitation of shale gas, the government hopes that local opposition the fracking will be overcome.
People are not irrational. If there is a cheap source of energy they will exploit it if they can, but those who exploit it do so for profit and not out of motivation to improve the common good.
There are two potential problems with the underground extraction shale gas. One is the risk of damage and pollution of the underground water table and the other is the possibility of increasing the risk of earthquakes.
It is likely that both of these potential problems will be mitigated to a large extent by careful regulations which are properly enforced, but I cannot say that I have every confidence in the ability of the government to put in place adequate regulations to protect the people and the environment in which the people live. The power of the fossil fuel energy lobby is tremendous and already by suggesting that some money from this kind of exploitation might reside with local authorities, the government are showing that they have bought the story that those who wish to exploit shale gas are selling.
There is one thing that seems to have been omitted from the debate about fracking. That is the aesthetic impact of the gasworks that will need to be built across the countryside. If you think wind turbines are ugly, you haven’t seen anything yet.