Anti-fracker case more about emotionalism than facts

Anti-fracker case more about emotionalism than facts

Enough is enough. The phoney debate over fracking (the hydraulic fracturing mining method to extract shale gas and oil) has gone on long enough. There is simply nothing to debate.

The fracking technique has been around for over 60 years without causing any major environmental problems. That’s a little tit-bit of information about which the mainstream media appears woefully ignorant.

In fact, fracking has been the mainstay technique associated with all mining – literally millions of drilling events – throughout that entire period.

And yet, not a single incident of drinking water pollution has been recorded. Court case after court case and study after study, especially in the US, confirms the fact. Equally, no earth tremors of any significance have occurred. And, surprise, surprise, during that 60 years: no protests. So what has changed?

When US engineer George Mitchell devised a method to ‘frack’ horizontally, as well as vertically, it rendered the enterprise of shale gas and oil drilling much more economically viable. Step forward the green anti-intellectuals with an anti-fossil fuel agenda and an urgent need for a new campaign of hydrocarbon demonization.

What better than to ‘suggest’ that our drinking water is threatened or that we risk earthquakes. No evidence you understand, just a campaign of anti-fracking propaganda.

They’re good at it, too. Largely because a reluctant and woolly-minded energy industry has played the green PR game to keep customers onside. As a YouGov survey in the UK confirmed last year, however, public support for shale gas extraction, previously at an all-time high of 61 percent, has begun falling back.

Time to take off the gloves. I have long lamented the PR fear-factor that has paralysed energy companies in this regard. But by tip-toeing around the real issues they have simply allowed the greens to influence the public debate with their fact-free 30-second sound-bites.

As a consequence an alliance of well-funded green activists, the usual ‘whatever-it-is-I’m-against-It’ post-hippie student rent-a-mob and local householders, afraid their homes will disappear into the ground, have developed a rustic ‘pitchfork’ mentality towards shale drilling. In particular, the fracking technique.   

But here’s the thing. There is no need for the drilling companies or the government to be on the defensive about fracking. The answer is quite straightforward. When the green-student-villager alliance raises the issue of water pollution or earth tremors they ought to be asked a simple question: after 60 years of fracking technology where is their evidence that it causes either. 

As it doesn’t exist, the debate would not last long. Which is precisely why the green alliance won’t engage intellectually on the subject. That’s because – and it needs reiterating – their real agenda is not fracking, it is preventing any new fossil fuel development in any form.

Greens know only too well that this is a message that won’t fly. Not least because the world remains, whatever the greens and politicos might wish, 80 percent fossil-fuel powered. A situation that will prevail for decades to come no matter what ideologues may prefer.

That’s because renewable energy is so feeble and so vastly expensive in terms of significant power generation it could never, with current technology, replace the on-going need for the generating power inherent in, and only in, hydrocarbon fuels. The key issue then becomes, not fracking but the critical triumvirate of economics (what we can afford), the economy (why domestic resources are vital to it) and energy security (only available to us in the form of hydrocarbon fuels).

Okay, so let’s turn specifically to the UK. We have a problem. In the real world the debate rages over how long the ‘gift’ of our own North Sea Oil and gas will last. Some say another 30 to 40 years. Whatever it is, that resource is dwindling. We are already becoming more dependant on imported Russian, Qatari and Norwegian gas. And that comes with a steep and every-increasing price tag.

In January 2013 we were within six hours of entirely running out of gas supplies during one of the UK’s coldest winters for years – a time, incidentally, when the cold weather brought windless conditions rendering windfarms across the whole of northern Europe absolutely useless.

If it had not been for expensive Qatari gas tankers (constantly at sea for such events) UK gas supplies would have been exhausted when they were most needed. Imagine the public outcry when the ovens, central heating systems and refrigerators cut out?  How many of us would be green ideologues at that point?

But why should this be when we have an energy resource equal to a ‘New North Sea’ of gas and oil right beneath our feet? Our very own gas and oil reserves.  And therein lies the crucial importance of extracting our own shale gas and shale oil.

The Government, at least the Conservative element of the Coalition, fully recognises the importance of domestic gas resources. Consequently, the UK is forging ahead with shale development opening up over half of the UK to shale drilling licences. Communities will undoubtedly benefit from a share in the profits. But what locals need to understand to stop them backing the green anti-fracking lunacy, is that fracking is the least invasive form of mining there is.

Let me put it this way. My home directly overlooks a field. If planning permission were given for a windfarm or solar farm, I would fight it tooth and nail for all kinds of reasons but, chiefly, because I know they are ludicrously expensive and erratic ways of generating power. To support either hikes up our energy bill and our taxes unnecessarily. And the ultimate loser is the economy – that affects us all. 

However, if fracking for shale gas or oil is proposed there, then be my guest. The drill pad would only be there temporarily, say 60 days. When it’s gone the field will look exactly the same as it did before. Both the local and national economy benefits massively and we make dramatic cuts in our foreign gas and oil imports from unstable countries.

Shale gas and oil development is actually a ‘no brainer’. Unfortunately, Frackophobia, like most irrational phobias, has become difficult to dislodge, even when the hard safety facts are ALL on one side. But it has always been true that there are none as deaf as those who refuse to engage with intellectual argument. In truth, anti-fracker contentions are more about emotionalism than facts.

For more see 10 Fracking Facts Everyone Should Know by the same writer. Peter C Glover is the International Associate Editor at Energy Tribune, author of bestseller Energy and Climate Wars (Bloomsbury) and is a columnist at Breitbart London.