What The Frack?

The other day I discovered something called The Fleet Street Letter, an advertorial¬†aimed at investors discussing the merits or otherwise, but mostly the merits, of Hydraulic Fracturing (or “fracking”), a process used to extract natural gas deposits that have been discovered locked away in shale rock beneath vast stretches of the UK.

It’s a promotional flyer for the analysts behind the investment advice, but I find the thrust of the content (besides attracting more subscribers for them) disturbing. I don’t subscribe to this thing, I only found it by chance so I have no interest in promoting it.

I know this topic has been in the news plenty of times recently and I know there are many voices speaking out in opposition to the government’s plans to enable companies to drill for this “new” miracle fuel throughout the UK.

The argument goes something like this (and I’m paraphrasing heavily of course);

Government: “As long as there are sufficient regulations in place, fracking is no more dangerous or invasive than any other mineral extraction process. In fact, the gas that will be extracted from the shale rock beneath the UK will be cleaner to burn than our other primary fuel source, coal, and we believe there is so much of it available that it will transform our economy for up to the next 100 years. The industry that will have to exist in order to capitalise on the deposits will create jobs and bring huge wealth to the country.”

Environmentalists: “But it is dangerous. It has been linked to ground tremors and illnesses arising from the toxic chemicals used in the fracturing process in populations close to the drilling sites. Not only that but it’s a fossil fuel, and the last thing we, or any other nation on the planet should be considering right now, is the continued, never mind accelerated, contribution to greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.”

Government: “How about we promise to give money to every community that is in close proximity to the shale gas extraction sites. We’ll give it to your local councils who can decide how best to make use of it, and you’ll probably see that through reduced council tax bills and ultimately, as the fuel begins to filter in to the UK supply, lower heating bills too. And let’s not forget that you’re living in some of the areas across the country that have been hardest-hit by the austerity measures, that we’re all in together by the way, so of course you’ll want to see jobs and prosperity coming to your region won’t you?”

Investors: “This is a fantastic opportunity! Based on past returns from areas where rich mineral deposits have been located around the world, we’re looking good for making a considerable amount of cash from our investments. Sure a lot of people will have to live in close proximity to noisy and disruptive drilling and processing sites but that’s just an unavoidable consequence of sucking all that lovely moolah right out of the ground. Anyway, it’s not like we have to live in these places is it? In fact it’s a fair chance that many of us won’t even be resident in the UK at all, and those who do will more than likely reside in areas where fracking licences have not been granted yet (or will never be granted, if you know what we mean).”

Ultimately I loathe the idea that the fat cats are all totally behind this project and it’s looking like it’s pretty much a done deal, regardless of the opinions of the people who do have to live in close proximity to the drill sites. I hate that greed is still so alive and well after all the lessons we should have learned over the last few years, and that the government has latched on to this short-term solution to the national debt, unemployment and GDP so as to gain popularity and, as a result, votes.

I also found this shale gas and fracking document from the House of Commons (PDF, 268KB) which gives some insights into the leads that the Fleet Street Letter are trying to sell you, as well as some good and interesting links and information about the process.

There’s still a lot I don’t know about this whole thing but I wanted to share it with those who do, or are at least interested.





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