To Frack or Not to Frack

As the great shale debate continues to draw both supporters and opponents to the front lines of our energy crisis, the tides are truly churning in the UK. While natural gas extracted from the ground may provide a stable supply of energy, spectators across the globe find themselves asking the same question time and time again – how much are we willing to risk for a bit of fracking gas?

Although it’s been dubbed ‘the natural gas’, shale drilling has created an unnatural uproar across the UK as extensive gas resources were uncovered in Lancashire last month. Approximately 200 trillion cubic feet of gas has been discovered underneath the Bowland basin, offering an amount of resources which could lead down one of two roads: that of opportunity, or one of lasting consequence.

The vision of opportunists is accompanied by a vast amount of energy and the creation of nearly 6,000 jobs in the economically frail UK. The second, on the other hand, may look very familiar to those across the Atlantic, where this method of natural gas extraction has caused its own kind of controversy.
Fracking involves the hydraulic fracturing of the ground using high-pressure liquid containing a cocktail of chemicals to release the gas found in shale. Over the years, it has been claimed that the subsequent release of gas has caused illness and polluted drinking water. Moreover, some households near drilling sites claim the chemicals used and the gas it releases can not only infiltrate local water supplies, but even go as far as causing it to ignite and explode.

The Environmental Protection Agency has released numerous reports on the hundreds of fracking sites across the U.S. Among these reports, the EPA claims leakage from the wells has led to toxic amounts of human carcinogens and nuerotoxins such as xylene, carbon disulfide, naphthalene and benzene.
Cuadrilla Resources, the energy firm that made the Lancashire discovery, says its techniques are well-tested and safe.

As seen in protests across the globe, opponents vehemently attest that the possible damages from fracking far outweigh its benefits – even beyond the obvious ones. The development of fossil fuels, for example, could potentially draw investment and attention away from the budding renewable energy industry.
Subsequently, some may ask what ‘renewable’ industry we are referring to. After all, England isn’t a very large place and has few natural resources to begin with, as stated by Darren Adkins, an active shale gas supporter from Buckinghamshire.
“This fosters innovation, and as the saying goes, needs must when the devil drives. Unless the advent of Hydrogen-powered vehicles hastens soon, we need to either return to horse and cart or perpetuate our fast paced lifestyle by becoming creative with fuel sources.”
Cuadrilla hopes to drill as many as 400 wells over the next nine years, and this number is slated to hit 800 over the next 16 if gas extraction is indeed successful. The company foresees potentially producing gas for up to 50 years.
“As a race we have peaked on fuel productivity,” Adkins added, “and demand will only outstrip supply henceforth.”

Southern Somalia suffers from devastating famine and humanitarian disaster

The country of Somalia is experiencing the worst famine and drought in nearly 60 years with an estimated half the country – 3.7 million people – now in crisis, according to the United Nations.

The east African nation once a busting center of commerce in the middle Ages, is now being called the world’s worst humanitarian disaster by Refugee’s International.

Already deeply torn by an unyielding and devastating civil war, southern Somalia is now simultaneously bearing the weight of the famine blistering the Horn of Africa. The situation is producing unfathomable statistics; one fourth of the population has already been displaced with over 10 million currently in need of emergency aid, according to the UN. The U.N. issued a declaration on Wednesday specifically acknowledging the two southern Somalian cities of Bakool and Lower Shabelle as areas of official famine.

Some analysts say the death toll is likely to surpass that of the famine that ravaged Ethiopia in the 80s which estimated 1 million dead in just a single year.

The country has not had a functioning government since 1991 after the former administration was overturned by a shamble of clan militias that have since splintered and manipulated the nation into complete humanitarian and political chaos. This internal strife has made it increasingly difficult for international aid agencies to coordinate relief. Though, the U.N. and other nongovernmental organizations are looking to spend around $300 million in the coming two months to relieve hard hit areas in the south.

Al Shabab, widely considered to be one of the most violent militant groups in Africa, has secured control over much of the nation. Formerly the military wing of the Islamic Courts Union with ties to al Qaeda,  al Shabab -meaning “the youth” in Arabic- has menaced the country relentlessly, committing some of the most disturbing human rights violations in the world. The group garners power through terrorizing the public; chopping off hands, stoning civilians, implementing drastic restrictions on education, recruitment of child soldiers, and other disturbing tactics in a quest to implement strict Shariah law.

Many areas under influence of al Shabab are completely untouched by any kind of foreign aid due to the political implications of the jihadist militant group. In 2010 the World Food Program suspended aid operations throughout Somalia after al Shabab ordered aid agencies to halt operations on the pretense that the agencies were anti-muslim spies. Furthermore, the Obama administration pulled the plug on American food aid after evidence mounted that al Shabab was transferring aid resources to fund operations last year.

This inadvertent abandonment has left pockets of densely traumatized and starved citizens that lie even more vulnerable to groups like al Shabab. Children are at the forefront of this human rights war with 1 in 10 children at risk of death in Somalia, according to the Red Cross. The desperation of the country has planted a ripe field for child soldiering. Not only is al-Shabab luring children with promises of material goods such as phones an money, but the group is now raiding schools with the intention of forced recruitment.

Recently al Shabab ransacked a school in the Somalia capital of Mogadishu, forcing children into an idling car waiting outside the building while killing any teacher refusing compliance, according to Amnesty International.

The famine has created such a state of emergency that al Shabab recently announced they are again opening areas under their control to international aid. Some analysts remain wary of this announcement saying the ban was lifted solely to generate money for militant operations through a “registration fee” and to avoid further fleeing of citizens to surrounding transitional governments.

Last week, Hilary Clinton’s office at the State Department announced that the US is willing to send 28 million in aid to Somalia despite the fact that the country is under al-Shabab control.

Though, Clinton’s announcement may ring out to be just an empty promise due to a thorny rope of bureaucratic red tape and a vaguely defined law that prohibits the U.S. from providing aid to terrorists groups.

The situation is a tedious one, swaying precariously between providing for the desperate needs of innocent civilians and the fearsome notion of supplying resources to a brutal and ruthless terrorist group.

The Refugee’s International website urges the UN High Commissioners for Refugees to coordinate a high-level international conference focused on the regional Somali displacement crisis while developing a new and innovative approach to Somalia that is not focused on the support of the centralized puppet administration.