Invisible Dust

London | Sunday 17 February
Pollution level: Moderate

Protests for fracking succeed as support falls


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The public support for fracking for shale gas has fallen once again since September, with the opposition to it rising. This seems to be due to the recent increase in protests that have taken place throughout the country, from Lancashire to the East Midlands and Sussex, since the high profile march at Balcombe last August where dozens of arrests took place, including that of Caroline Lucas, Green MP.

In response to the decrease in support for shale gas, David Cameron has made several major speeches in support of shale gas, such as last week’s address to the World Economic Forum where he said that the UK needed to ‘embrace the opportunities of shale gas’. He also recently announced that local communities would receive money for living near shale gas wells and local authorities would keep 100% of business rates for fracking projects, rather than 50%, which is the norm. However these promises have simply been seen as bribes by protesters.

The reasons given by those in support for fracking for shale gas are its benefits to the community, it has ‘the potential to create growth, jobs and energy security and we are promoting safe exploration that protects the environment’ – spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change. However, as we can see from the use of fracking in America, it does create significant environmental concerns. The process requires huge amounts of water and chemicals, generates large amounts of wastewater, it can contaminate drinking water with methane or the chemicals used for drilling and emissions of methane, not to mention the impact of clearing forests for fracking sites.

Even though the gas industry argues that shale gas could reduce emissions, because burning natural gas produces less CO2, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide than gas or oil. Some studies suggest that it may not be any better that coal because of the leaks of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The Select Committee enquiry claims that these leaks could be avoided, but there is no guarantee that extra supplies of shale gas would reduce global coal use.

A recent Tyndall Centre report concludes that, without a global carbon cap, the availability of additional gas would most likely simply add to amount of fossil fuels used and therefore increases emissions. As Lawrence Carter, climate campaigner at Greenpeace, said ‘It is time he [David Cameron] listened to the voices of local communities and abandoned his plans to industrialise our countryside with this dirty, risky and controversial practice and instead backed the home insulation programmes and clean energy sources that can tackle rising bills and protect the environment.’


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