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Fracking Causes Fissure Lines: What is It, and Should We Be Using It?

Posted on the 18 April 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Fracking causes fissure lines: What is it, and should we be using it?

An anti-fracking protestor in America. Photocredit: ProgressOhio

The Government has recommended that fracking for natural shale gas should be allowed to continue in Britain. This is despite of fears of pollution, and the fact that two minor earthquakes were mostly caused by early drillings last year – one, of 2.3 on the Richter squale, shook Fylde; another was 1.4 on the scale. An estimated 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lies beneath our rocks – enough to meet Britain’s energy needs for 70 years. Fracking is a form of hydraulic fracturing that takes natural gas from sedimentary rocks – over 320 million years old. Unlike natural gas, shale needs to be blasted out from the rocks, requiring a violent and difficult process.

Scientists and commentators are split between those who think it’s safe and will provide cheap energy in almost unlimited quantities, and others who warn of caution.

The case against. Robert Newman on The Guardian explained the science. Fracking needs “between 1.6m and 2.5 m gallons … of water for a single well.” The water smashes rock, which gives it a “BTEX injection” – “benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene.” The Deparment of Energy and Climate Change makes hardly a mention of these “volatile organic compounds contaminating aquifers.” Even if the frackers manage not to “pollute drinking water”, the process will use so much water that it will “drain us dry.” Look at America, where a report says that water “contaminated by fracking” is too expensive to reuse. It’s a very hot issue. “In any constituency where fracking is proposed, you can forget about psephology. Fracking will not just undermine the shale geology of Britain but may sink half the recognisable political landscape too.”

The case in between. It’s an “unfortunate name,” said Michael Hanlon in The Telegraph. The company exploiting it, Cuadrilla Resources, sounds “more like a sci-fi monster than an enegry firm.” There have been tales of earthquakes and “flame-spewing bath taps.” But fracking is likely to solve our energy crisis. Cuadrilla Resources is hoping to make a fortune. Supporters say that the gas is relatively “clean.” But opponents say it’s “just another fossil fuel.” If there’s so much of it, then we can say goodbye to cutting carbon emissions. Fracking is also “positively dangerous” – but it has huge potential. However, are  “seismic rumblings” worth it for “jobs and [a] cash bonanza?”

The case for. Matt Ridley in The Times was more optimistic. He said that whilst fracking might “rattle the odd teacup,” it wouldn’t “cause damaging earthquakes.” In America, where 25,000 wells have been drilled, only a “handful of micro-seismic events” have happened. Hydroelectric dams cause much worse events. So let’s embrace fracking. The “economic and environmental benefits could be vast.” America’s carbon emissions fell because of fracking. Other sources of energy have failed to provide us with enough energy. And as for contamination of water – it’s “mostly hogwash.” Most of the opposition comes from people with a “vested interest in renewable energy.” And there’s a killer argument for using shale gas – nobody else needs it, unlike biofuel crops, or solar panels, or damming rivers. “ou are stealing energy from the natural world. Even the wind is needed — by eagles for soaring, by bats for feeding (both are regularly killed by wind turbines). As the only species that uses gas, the more we use it the more we can leave other sources of energy for nature.”

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