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Image courtesy of Frack Free Sussex

Image courtesy of Frack Free Sussex

Fracking up the countryside

Fracking… happening at a place near you. A few days ago, writes HOT’s Zelly Restorick, I heard that fracking was imminent at Balcombe, West Sussex, and that local people were to join others on the opposition front line, endeavouring to raise awareness, prevent or slow down the process. Aware of fracking’s controversial reputation, further investigation seems necessary.

‘Fracking’ is the term used for hydraulic fracturing of shale by drilling holes deep into the ground and using millions of gallons of high-pressure water mixed with sand and chemicals to release trapped gas and oil.

Environmental, safety and human health hazards involved with fracking include: drinking water contamination, ground water contamination, earthquakes and sizeable tremors, release of harmful volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere, explosions, contaminated air, neurological, sensory and respiratory damage, gas flares which burn waste gas and emit harmful air pollutants, acid rain, ground level ozone contamination; known carcinogens and toxins are among the chemicals used in the process, millions of gallons of water needed, huge numbers of trucks needed for transportation and associated congestion, leaking of methane and methane potentially coming from our kitchen taps, turning green countryside into industrial sites and displacement of species.

Frack with cross

Image by Fotor

Despite these risks, chancellor George Osborne recently stated: “I want Britain to be a leader of shale gas exploration,” offering interested companies “the most generous tax breaks for shale in the world” and other compensations. Alongside this, concerns were raised and investigations begun regarding David Cameron’s connection with top election advisor Lynton Crosby, alleged champion of the fracking industry.

Locally, earlier this week, the Environment Agency and the Department for Energy and Climate Change issued fracking company Cuadrilla (headed by former BP chief Lord Browne) with drilling permission to begin exploratory work in Balcombe, rural West Sussex. On the same day, equipment began to arrive on site with work due to start on Monday. However, opponents of the process were there to meet them, using trees trunks and human chains to raise awareness of the situation and to delay its progress. A high volume of police attended, arresting 10-15 campaigners, using tactics that seemed to some to be somewhat heavy-handed in the circumstances.

I spoke to Natalie Hynde, Hastings resident and independent anti-fracking campaigner currently taking part in the direct action, who was on site when the first trucks arrived. I asked who was taking part in the direct action. “I’m down here with other people trying to slow down vehicles by creating a blockade to the compound. It’s not just seasoned activists, it’s also lots of local people who’ve never been involved in direct action before or been arrested… mothers, children, grandmothers… It’s been heartening to see the number of local people involved. Just people concerned about their local water being contaminated and all the other problems associated with fracking that we know about from other countries, such as America, Poland, Australia, where it’s already happening and from what’s happened in the UK, like in Lancashire.” It’s alleged that Cuadrilla emptied the waste water from test fracking into the Manchester Shipping Canal and in 2012, their drilling near Birmingham was stopped after two earthquakes were registered.

“The analogy that comes to my mind,” said Natalie Hynde, “is extracting the marrow from the bones of the planet. It’s serious, expensive and dangerous. Acccording to what I’ve read, a single fracture intentionally mixes five-10 Olympic swimming pools of water with known toxins. This water leaches radioactive substances and toxic materials out of the shale… We just don’t have enough water to do this and there’s no safe way to treat or dispose of such huge volumes of water.”

Fracking machinery

Image from http://foter.com

Exploratory drilling at Balcombe is potentially the first step of a plan for widespread industrialisation of the Weald Basin area. Potentially 57,000 acres of Sussex are assets for exploratory drilling. Celtique Energie say there are reserves of 10 trillion cubic feet of gas in the Weald Basin, which would entail drilling thousands of  wells, extensive pipelines, compressor stations, toxic flares and high volume industrial traffic across our countryside. Industry statistics show that 6% of wells leak immediately and 50% leak within 15 years.

Experts estimate that fracking within Britain would produce 10–40 years’ worth of energy. The British Geological Society estimated 25 years. So is this a long-term solution or simply a high-risk, temporary, short-term fix?

And will there be huge energy savings for consumers? According to the management team of  Cuadrilla, there will be little effect on energy prices for energy consumers. Government advisors agree. So, the question is: who exactly is benefiting from this? The people? The planet? A powerful few?

Personally, I feel if we all used energy more thoughtfully and wisely, the search for energy sources wouldn’t need to be so desperate with such high risks for relatively low, short-term return. Renewable sources such as sun, wind and sea surely make more sense in the long term. What do you think?

For more information :

Dangers of fracking website.

Facebook link: Frackoff

Lech Kowalski film of fracking in Poland : Drill Baby Drill

Posted 07:59 Tuesday, Jul 30, 2013 In: The HOT Planet

3 Comments


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT
  1. ms. doubtfire

    They never give up do they! When its money they smell, nothing is sacred.

    Comment by ms. doubtfire — Monday, Oct 17, 2016 @ 13:06

  2. Anton

    I think that this is a really well researched piece which highlights the many disadvantages of fracking, while also showing that the very few people to benefit from this ridiculously short term project are the fat cats. I just watched the film Gasland (2010) which shows the fracking experience of many people in the US….we can’t let this be repeated here.

    Comment by Anton — Wednesday, Aug 7, 2013 @ 19:14

  3. Kevin Carlyon

    Oil exploration has taken place at Rock Lane, Hastings in the late 80’s. Myself and my Coven, yes as in Witches, performed several rituals to ensure Amoco Oil a dry well. That is in fact what happened and they left. ( Tap Kevin Carlyon into YouTube and you’ll find a Channel 4 News item about it).

    Now I have it on good authority that a company wish to test bore again at Rocks Lane and also at Fairlight, this time for gas!

    You have been warned.

    Kevin Carlyon
    http://www.kevthewitch.co.uk

    Comment by Kevin Carlyon — Thursday, Aug 1, 2013 @ 17:29

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