It has recently been announced that a three day protest is planned to take place against the drilling for Shale Gas which has been carried out at a site outside of Blackpool. The protest, which is due to take place in September, will take place near the village of Singleton in a field next to the drilling site. The field has already been dubbed ‘Camp Frack‘.
Test drilling had been carried out at the site by the company Cuadrilla Resources in March but was later suspended after earthquakes occurred in the area in April and May. These earthquakes took place over the period in which fluids were being injected into rock to cause fracture and release the shale gas; the process known as fracking. Cuadrilla Resources stated that the earthquakes were unconnected to the drilling but doubts were expressed by some geologists including the British Geological Survey.
A meeting was held on the issue of Shale Gas on the 19th of July in London. Caroline Lucas, Leader of the UK Green Party, was in attendance and commented that: “It is deeply irresponsible to try to extract this gas. It is a dirty, dangerous and dodgy energy supply which is still not understood well enough.” A number of issues surround the process of Shale Gas Extraction and questions have been raised on it’s true carbon footprint and the environmental impact the process itself and the disposal of waste materials has.
The UK debate is taking place at a time when the extraction process of fracking has just been banned in France. France became the first country in the world to ban commercial fracking on the 30th of June. This saw the banning bill successfully pass through both Houses of the French Parliament. The bill passed through the House of Representatives on the 21st of July and on the 30th it was passed by the Senate following a vote of 176 to 151. The vote was divided along party lines with the majority conservative party in favour whilst the opposition voted against. However, it seems that many of the votes against were due to the feeling that the bill failed to go far enough rather than because of any objection to the ban itself. This feeling was voiced by the Socialist Party in particular who criticised the bill for leaving open a number of loopholes and for allowing methods of extraction other than fracking to be used. An earlier version of the bill proposed to ban any development of Shale Gas Extraction altogether and was supported by the Socialist Party.
As a result of the bill companies which are currently in possession of permits for drilling in French oil shale deposits have been given two months to inform the French Government what extraction technique they are using. If they are using fracking or fail to respond to the request then their permits will be automatically revoked.
The French Bill looks unlikely to be replicated in Britain with a number of MPs arguing that the potential environmental problems caused by fracking can be overcome through tight regulation and good industry practise. Shale Gas is increasingly been seen as a ‘transitional alternative’ to coal due to the (disputed) lower carbon emissions it produces. Kevin Anderson, the deputy director of Manchester University’s Tyndall Centre for climate change research that Shale Gas could not be an alternative to coal: “It is not a substitute. My fear is that it will be combusted as well as coal. The Shale Gas industry recently announced that it expected that 35% of the increase in all gas production by 2035 would come from Shale. The former Energy Minister Michael Meacher, speaking at the London meeting, voiced his concerns over a large scale expansion in the world wide use of Shale Gas: “That is a huge shift from conventional fossil fuels to unconventional sources. But it is a big risk because the US industry is very poorly regulated and companies do not have to disclose the chemicals that they use.”
With the protests set to go ahead it seems that there is a growing awareness of the threat that Shale Gas poses not just to the British environment but also to the British Renewable Industry.