Fracking: a Study in Stupidity

There is something about humanity that thinks if you can dig up a resource from the good earth, it is free and you can use that resource to enrich humanity individually and collectively. We dig up many resources from coal to oil, and from gold to lithium to enrich ourselves (or some of us) materially with these resources at the same time impoverishing ourselves in ways you cannot judge with mere money.

Nothing is free in this great planet: everything is connected; so if we dig up and burn coal to produce heat and other energy, a by product of digging up coal is to damage our lungs and in some cases to create the deaths of some of those who do the digging as well as those who close to the slag heaps carelessly dumped close to schools and homes.

But people stupidly ignore this inter connectivity of resources in their quest for enrichment, and so has it been with fracking. In theory fracking is a way of getting cheap natural gas from under the earth where it has been stored in shale rock for hundreds and thousands of millennia. Readers of these essays will know that I have always opposed fracking; it has always been clear that the risks to the many are greater than the rewards that the few and the many may reap from fracking.

I have listened to eminent people claim that fracking is safe and will contribute to our energy security by lessening our dependence on imported natural gas by producing home grown energy. I have never subscribed the the view that fracking is safe. I regarded fracking as presenting three major risks in the following order of importance and risk:

  1. Risk of methane leaking into and infecting water tables;
  2. Risk of methane, an insidious greenhouse gas, leaking into the atmosphere and
  3. Risk of causing earthquakes by damage to the rocks from which methane is extracted by explosions.

In the past view days the government has called a moratorium on fracking in this country. An earthquake of 2.9 on the Richter scale seems to have been caused by fracking and the advice the government has got is that it is impossible to predict the probability or size of tremors caused by fracking and so it has suspended all fracking until it can know that fracking is safe.

Having suspended fracking on the basis of the third in importance of risk (in my view) I cannot see that racking will ever return to the United Kingdom, where the geology is unsuitable, there is dense population and where so much of our water depends on clean water tables: all rise to all three potential risks are serious and health and life threatening. However, with humanity you can never say “never” as we stupidly continue to pursue our quest for material wealth at the cost of the environment.

Had the government listened to views like mine the money wasted on fracking could have been better spent on benign energy (like wind and solar) preventing the waste of energy and improving renewable energy and preventing the use of unnecessary energy. Fracking was bound to be dangerous and to me this was obvious.

Andrea Leadsom, the UK minister responsible for science, said that the decision to call a moratorium on fracking follows the science. It is a shame that the government did not follow the science and the common sense when it permitted fracking in the first place. Fracking in the UK has been simply a study in stupidity.

4 Responses

  1. So, what’s your opinion on mainland Europe’s total future reliance on Russian Gas (methane) via Nordstream’s 1 and 2. Here In the UK we have set off in the opposite direction down the road to ban natural gas altogether. Who’s right?

    • We only import small quantities Russian Gas, but why shouldn’t we? Russia is not quite the ogre that people claim it to be. We have to continue to develop wind and solar energy and invest more heavily in energy storage, particularly electricity storage where there seem to be some feasible ideas of using deep mines to store surplus wind and solar electricity harnessed when the wind blows and when there is light. Fracking is a side show and a potentially dangerous one too.

  2. Fair enough, but my point was not directed to fracking. Lord (gimme £600,000) Deben, chair of the Committee on Climate Change has said gas powered heating in newly built houses will be banned from 2025. My point was that it is now stated UK policy to phase out gas for heating and cooking yet mainland Europe obviously intends to expand implementation of gas powered heating. If the EU expects gas consumption to rise why are we banning it? Even if the CCC is right we are wasting our time and money. If the CCC is wrong then new houses will have expensive heat pump systems which only work effectively at temperatures above 5C. At 0C they simply heat by using the mains electricity. BTW I am in favour of using Russian gas rather than LNG from the US or Qatar.

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