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UK Government Pauses Fracking

Updated: Mar 29, 2020

Ben Dolbear reveals more about the welcomed announcement from the UK Government | Innovation and Sustainability

Photo by Ian Simmons

The UK government has put a pause on all fracking, citing fears that earth tremors risk causing too much disruption among local communities.


The news from the UK government comes at the same time that leading Democratic candidates in the US presidential election are promising to put a fracking ban in place, leading to a furious backlash from American oil corporations Exxon and Chevron.


The Green Party has described the move as ‘very, very welcome’, but have expressed concern that the move may be overturned after the general election result in mid-December.


Writing on Twitter, co-leader of the Greens Sian Berry wrote, ‘[b]anning fracking is for life, not just for Christmas’. In addition to this criticism, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned the ban as ‘an election stunt to try and win a few votes’, perhaps in a reference to conversations at the Conservative Party conference earlier this year which aired ‘the potential for fracking to affect up to 200 electoral districts, 40 of them marginal’.


Extinction Rebellion blocked the entrance to the UK’s only active fracking site in September 2019 calling it the “burgeoning catastrophe” of global warming.


What is Fracking?


Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a technique by which gas and oil are recovered from shale rock, a sedimentary rock found globally. A liquid mixture of water, sand, and chemicals is pumped at high pressure into underground rock formations in order to open cracks which allow trapped gas or crude oil to flow to the surface.


Proponents of fracking include Cuadrilla, who notoriously ended drilling operations in the northwest of England in 2011 after minor quakes were identified nearby and have since been hampered by similar incidents.


Why Fracking is Unsustainable and Bad for the Environment


They argue that fracking reduces energy costs and carbon emissions by displacing coal in electricity generation, but anti-fracking campaigners such as Frack Off say that the process involves releasing dangerous chemicals into the earth, wastefully utilising unsustainable levels of natural resources, and leads to earth tremors in surrounding areas.


It is also of great concern that one of the main gases released during the fracking process in methane, roughly 4% of which escapes into the atmosphere. Methane is estimated to be 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide in trapping heat, contributing immeasurably to global warming.


A Community Concern and More


British communities have also expressed fears that local water supplies are negatively impacted by fracking, which uses millions of gallons during the process. Up to 40% of the water used for fracking that is returned to the earth is riddled with toxic contaminants.


Anti-fracking campaigners have expressed concern that the government has only ‘paused’ fracking ‘unless and until further evidence is provided that it can be carried out safely here’. The language used by the UK government leaves open the possibility for the return of fracking in England.


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