In 2011 fracking operations in the Forest of Bowland in the north of England caused a number of small earth tremors, the largest being 2.3 on the Richter Scale.
Most of these tremors were so insignificant, however, that local people didn’t even know they had happened. It took the sensitive recording equipment of the British Geological Survey (BGS) to acknowledge them.
The BGS was also able to pin down the cause in that some of the fracking operations had taken place close to an existing minor geological fault line and had resulted in minor slippage on the fault line, but nothing that was visible on the surface.
This information has been taken on board, procedures reviewed and tightened and fracking for gas deposits trapped in the rocks of the Bowland basin is finally under way, as you may have seen on the news.
If you have, you will also no doubt have seen the coalition of people lined up to oppose fracking – it being somewhat unnerving to see the usual anti-capitalist reds and greens sharing a picket line with local grannies/
To understand this gathering we really need to recognise that these are two disparate groups.
On the one hand are local people concerned about their local environment, who have been fed a tale of woe about earthquakes, water pollution and who knows what else, but nonetheless disastrous for their local environment.
On the other side are the peddlers of these pernicious myths exploiting the fears of locals to peddle their own anti-capitalist agenda and make it look respectable.
These are the people claiming that their aim is to “save the planet” by banning ALL fossil fuels.
But which country is it that has done most to cut its CO2 emissions and how? Yep, how about the good old US of A, bogeyman of the environmentalists.
And how did it do that? By developing its shale gas fields. This means that it has undermined a reliance on oil or coal and significantly cut its pollution.
At the same time China and India and even Germany have increased the use of coal fired power stations. Three cheers for the USA, then? I doubt you’ll hear that from any environmental activist, though.
At present in the UK we import liquefied natural gas which is first chilled and then shipped to the UK.
Think how much better if we could just frack it out of the ground, how much cleaner, how much cheaper.
We all know that windpower is incredibly expensive, we subsidise it through our energy bills, we also know that the wind doesn’t blow all the time so there are times when we need a ready source of energy that can be just brought into play at the touch of a button and that is the great strength of gas fired power stations.
Based on BGS estimates of the gas available we could realistically expect the Bowland basin to meet our gas needs for the next half century, not just keeping our lights on but fuelling our central heating and cookers.
I, for one, prefer my heating and cooking to be by gas. So far I’ve not had an occasion when the gas lines were brought down in high winds or by snow, I can’t say the same for electricity.
I’ll leave you with one final thought: if there were no gas and no competitor to electricity what do you think would happen to the price of electricity? Do you really think it would plummet or do you think that as a captive market we would just have to pay up whatever was charged?
Bob Britnell is the former principal planning officer at Canterbury City Council and now runs his own consultancy offering planning and conservation advice. He lives in Tyler Hill.