We’re all going to die. That’s what some critics of Fracking are saying and it’s an argument that carries more credibility than any other. Of course were all going to die sometime; that’s a fact. The question however is whether blasting water and a cocktail of miscellaneous chemicals deep into the earth to extract oil and gas from beds of shale will in fact be the cause of our death or whether old age and natural selection will run its course before we sort out the extraction technology and decide if it’s worthwhile.
Sleepy Balcombe in Sussex is only a half hour jog from my old school through the pine forests of The Cowdray Estate. I remember it well. So when I heard they were dropping test wells down there amid a clamour of resistance from local residents (and some imported activists too I’ve no doubt) I tuned in.
The oil and gas exploration industry are not best known for being sensitive souls and dollar signs can be seen spinning in the eyes around the boardroom tables of Dallas. The Americans are busy fracking their way to energy self-sufficiency (almost 25% of their oil and gas is now sourced this way as opposed to 1% in 2000) which is an attractive goal but the case is less compelling in Europe’s shale beds, not to mention those of Balcombe.
France, Netherlands, Luxemburg and Czech Republic have all said no to the process (for the time being at least) but 17 other European countries including the People’s republic of Balcombe have not only said yes but have already issued permits for the tests. Nay-sayers point to the likelihood of methane and carcinogens being flushed from a weakening geology in public water supplies while the yays point to the emergence of a whole new future for the energy industry and cheaper fuel all round for the foreseeable future.
Fact is, it’s an as yet unproven technology with uncertain risks and I reckon that if the good people of Balcombe don’t want it in their back yard then they should be listened to.