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.”