Not too long ago, renowned fashion designer Vivienne Westwood appeared on BBC Daily Politics speaking in opposition to Britain following America’s lead and investing in fracking. Many support the move as it does have its benefits, but as with everything there are those who oppose it and also present great arguments. But with almost half the British public unsure of what fracking is, and why there is such a heated debate around it, so we can all be a little more informed, this article will detail what fracking is and the main arguments surrounding it.

What is fracking?

This is probably the biggest and most confusing question that surrounds the entire issue, so it is my aim to make it as simple and as clear as possible. Fracking, or shale gas mining, is the process of drilling more than a mile into the earth’s surface and blasting water mixed with chemicals and sand, often known as slickwater, at high pressure, into the ground. This is in order to widen cracks in rocks underground to release the natural gases, and sometimes oil, trapped within them, and then flush them up to the surface for use.

Why are people for it?

With it producing approximately 300,000 barrels of natural gas per day, it is not surprising that many people support the move. Conservative politicians such as Ken Clarke have described the move as a ‘no brainer’ and good for the economy, a view shared by many, with it giving Britain the potential to produce more gas and oil domestically. Labour’s Liz Kendall also backs the move, as long as the necessary safety checks are in place. One of the main reasons many support Britain pursuing fracking is that it could give us better gas security for many years to come – as seen with America and Canada, currently estimated to have gained 100 years of gas security as a result of fracking. Further to this, many have disregarded some of the environmental arguments in opposition to fracking, such as water contamination and tremors, with the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering both claiming the risks are manageable and that ‘fracking can be undertaken safely if best practice and effective regulation are enforced’.[1]

Why are people against it?

Despite these benefits there are those, such as Vivienne Westwood, who provide strong arguments as to why fracking is not a good move for Britain. David Cameron in 2010 stated that he was committed to making his government the ‘greenest government ever’ but despite this seems to be backing fracking.[2] Fracking will involves using up to 600 chemicals which includes lead, uranium and hydrochloric acid, with each well needing an average of 400 tanker trucks to transport water to and from the sites. This, alongside the fact that it will lead to more fossil fuels being produced shows the move to be counter to Cameron’s commitments. Some argue it has also diverted attention from the discovery of greener means of energy production and despite many saying fracking is a better alternative to coal, with it producing half the co2 emissions when generating electricity, with there being potential for high rates of methane leakage, some suggest it could be dirtier than coal. Water contamination is also a big concern, with methane concentration being on average 17 times higher in drinking water wells near fracking sites and there being over 1000 documented case of water contamination as a result of fracking. Vivienne Westwood also raised some good points, highlighting that Britain has far more fault lines than in the US, meaning the risks of tremors as a result fracking, as seen in Blackpool in 2011, are far higher, and that we must understand that America cannot be used as a blueprint for Britain. Further to this, she raised the point that fracking is still very new, with there being much still to learn about the process.

With this information in mind, what are your thoughts? Should Britain pursue fracking and seek to potentially guarantee the country gas security for many years to come? Or is the environmental risk too great? Should the public be more informed about fracking? Or have we given Cameron a mandate to act on our behalf and make this decision without consulting the public?






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