Last year a company called Cuadrilla Resouces began drilling into the rock at Preece Hall, near Blackpool, to begin extracting gas in formations of shale rock. Fracking involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into the rock deep underground, to split it apart and release the natural gas inside. The operation is currently on hold due to two small earthquakes in Lancashire, which may have been caused by the fracking, but will no doubt start up again soon.
There is enough CO2 in the known reserves of conventional fossil fuels; coal, oil and gas to trigger runaway climate change, without tapping into the so–called unconventional fossil fuels such as shale gas and tar sands. It’s quite simple, if we want to leave a liveable planet to future generations we need to rapidly move away from fossil fuels now and massively invest in low carbon technologies.
In the US, a Cornell University study concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas are higher than those for coal. Methane is 21 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide and it appears that the process of splitting rocks open increases the chances of the gas escaping into the atmosphere considerably.
As if the climatic effects are not enough to deter us there are other grave environmental concerns surrounding shale gas. Drilling to depths of 10,000ft means penetrating the water table, this runs the risk of contaminating aquifers with chemicals that are extremely toxic to people and wildlife. There is also clear evidence that the fluids leach radioactive radium from the rocks to the surface.
In response to these environmental concerns, the French parliament has voted for a nationwide ban on the process of fracking. Birmingham Friends of the Earth believe the UK should follow suit, as do the hundreds of protesters who assembled close to where the current drilling operations are taking place on 17th & 18th September in the ‘Camp Frack’ peaceful protest.
If you want to find out more there is a short documentary describing the problems with Shale Gas on YouTube entitled ‘Fracking Hell: The Untold Story’.
And if you havn’t done so already, please sign the e-petition calling for a moratorium on Shale Gas in the UK – http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/14271