Last week, the government suspended fracking operations in the UK indefinitely. This being the second time in ten years marks a possible dead-end for the many companies that have sought to cash in on the fossil-fuel technique over the past decade.
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom announced the halt after a report by the Oil and Gas Authority reiterated what many already feared – the frequency and magnitudes of earthquakes caused by fracking can’t be predicted, leaving it unsafe. This follows a 2.9 magnitude earthquake caused by fracking at Preston New Road, Lancashire in August this year. There were two quakes of similar magnitude in 2011, which themselves led to a year’s suspension. It is worth pointing out that fracking has not been banned outright. This is a temporary measure, unless scientific evidence arises that can assure the safety of the technique.
those that were part of the hugely negative reaction to fracking over the years still have good cause to celebrate
Fracking is also known as hydraulic fracturing. It is a method of extracting oil and gas from shale rock buried underground. It is forced out by injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand and chemicals into the rock. This decision is somewhat of a u-turn for the government; fracking has been supported by the Conservative governments of David Cameron and Theresa May for the benefits it would have on oil security and prices. It was also embraced by current PM Boris Johnson in a Daily Telegraph article written during Cameron’s premiership. Boris Johnson’s change of tack has been accused by Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as an ‘election stunt’ on Twitter.
Opposition parties and environmentalist groups have been staunchly against fracking, however, down to the impact on rural landscapes, the huge amount of water it consumes, and the possibility of pollution of the nearby area. It is already being blocked by governments in Scotland and Wales.
the pressure that activists have placed on fracking firms and the government in turn must be appreciated, as a testament to the change people can make on the ground if nothing else
Fracking has never gotten much further than test phases, with only one company – Cuadrilla – having received final consent from the government to start fracking. Cuadrilla and businesses like it have been setting up facilities across the areas of northern England where reserves have been identified – particularly Lancashire, Yorkshire, and even Sherwood in Nottinghamshire.
However, those that were part of the hugely negative reaction to fracking over the years still have good cause to celebrate. Environmental activists have stood vehemently against fracking all through the decade, camping out at and blockading fracking centres like Preston New Road mentioned above, or the operations of the firm Ineos in Sherwood Forest (check out this photo essay from The Guardian last year to learn more).
The strength of the resistance to fracking surely impacted its slow performance over time. In 2016, the government projected the country holding 20 wells by mid-2020, but not even 5 were completed. Science backs fracking being a volatile practice that could have dangerous consequences. While this undoubtedly impacted its being shelved once more, the pressure that activists have placed on fracking firms and the government in turn must be appreciated, as a testament to the change people can make on the ground if nothing else.
Featured image courtesy of Green Peace UK via Facebook.
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