Author J T Coombes www.globalmagnacarta.com @GMagnaCarta
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) is to announce a new round of on-shore oil and gas exploration licensing with about two thirds of Britain potentially on offer to exploration companies. – Source Sunday Times 11/05/2014
Welcome to the National Parks Britain’s breathing spaces
“There are 15 members of the National Parks family, beautiful areas of mountains, meadows, moorlands, woods and wetlands.
They are areas of protected countryside that everyone can visit, and where people live, work and shape the landscape.”
“Farmers are an important group of landowners and agriculture is one of the main land uses in National Parks”
I would suggest that “areas of protected countryside” is precisely what these beautiful areas are no longer, and it will not become as easy to visit them either. ‘Two thirds’ of Britain has now become the playing field for corporate businesses in what can only be described as volume shale gas production in its infancy, and therefore totally untested.
Vested interests would argue that this type of exploration has been around for 60 years or more without headline grabbing disasters and I would agree. However what has been practised so far pales into insignificance compared with the 21st century ‘gold rush’ that is now being pushed by government.
Let’s forget the science of the process for a moment and just look at practicalities. We are talking a resource that requires ‘oceans’ of water and chemicals for its extraction, with huge volumes of BIG Lorries to transport chemicals and toxic waste. They will require a road infrastructure that will make Spaghetti Junction look like a quiet country lane in a small hamlet. Sadly this is the environment these roads will need to pass through, creating untold pressures to the many communities, of which farming and livestock is an integral part.
Then there is the question of pollution of air and water. As far as air pollution is concerned methane leaks can come from the wells themselves, but let us not underestimate the emissions from the plethora of powered equipment, rigs pumps and compressors etc., necessary to pump the water and chemicals into the ground and extract the resultant gas/oil. In addition there is of course the exhaust emissions from the ceaseless movement across the country of the BIG Lorries mentioned earlier.
When we look at water usage the picture gets really scary because of the vast volumes of water necessary to the process. In America it has been estimated that during the lifetime of an average well something like up to 8 million US gallons of water will be used, which will be higher over here because shale depths are one and a half times further down. Not only will water be taken from streams and rivers that are already becoming challenged in their ability to provide for our basic needs, but also we will place our food at risk by having both arable and livestock farming competing for that same water supply.
Further potential threats to our food supply come from the fluids that return back to the surface with the extracted gas and these seem to range from 20% to 70% of what is injected. ‘Flowback’ water can be treated but it is an expensive time and chemical intensive process that profit driven corporations may become less motivated to remain involved with.
But all of this pales into insignificance compared with the long term dangers of pumping vast amounts of chemicals (which continue to remain a mystery) into the ground and their re-emergence at some time in the future. Although no scientist, I believe this re-emergence has to happen because of the sheer volume of chemicals being pumped into the ground through across the country. As these chemicals rise to the surface our food and water will become contaminated on an unimaginable scale, making us incapable of providing for our very survival.
Vested interests will argue that this won’t happen . . . BUT THEY DON’T KNOW . . . none of us do, and that is the honest truth – was climate change an issue 25 years ago!
Overall therefore it is essential for the necessary regulatory regimes needed to protect us and the environment to be put in place by government and rigidly adhered to. Here, worryingly, governments of every political hue have a poor track record of regulation, with the banking crisis still fresh in our minds, plus their ongoing relationship with corporate sponsors.
Driven by a government whose seriously depleted treasury coffers would benefit from 40% of corporate profits, (if they are kept in this country), the ability to apply responsible regulation of this industry is, I would suggest, a pipe dream.
How can any government contemplate handing over two thirds of the country to this type of commercial activity when official government figures for 2012 stated that 70% of Britain is used for farming. This is not thinking from visionary leadership but rather the short term thinking of ‘professional’ politicians seeking the means to repay massive debt they have incurred without seeking our authority so to do.
I’m not arguing we shouldn’t explore the possibilities of fracking, but we must do it responsibly over a period of years, to gain greater insight and experience before committing our country to a course of action that could become irreversibly destructive . . . climate change is quite enough for the moment!
Greenpeace are getting in the governments face with this issue and have a petition with nearly 250,000 signatures. I am writing independently of them but know they are the experts at making things happen and so you might like to add your name, if you haven’t already done so, or not, it’s up to you . . . I did. https://secure.greenpeace.org.uk/page/s/frack-free-uk