‘Fracking’ controversy rages on

There’s a great fracking controversy going on, to be sure. Arguments for and against the use of relatively new technology called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as a source of energy are now coming from the Sussex area in South East England, where one of the main concerns is the current drought.

Fracking calls for massive amounts of fluid, mostly water but also various unspecified chemicals, being pumped at extremely high pressure through minute cracks in a rock formation, thus widening the cracks and allowing more gas or liquid to flow through into gaps or reservoirs from which it can be extracted. The process requires a lot of water to be pumped, and the Ardingly reservoir in West Sussex is already down to less than half its normal capacity.

Protestors gathered at the reservoir on Tuesday carrying signs with slogans like “No Fracking” and “Frack-Free Zone”. School secretary and anti-fracking campaigner Vanessa Vine cited the dangers she and many others fear; which include contamination of drinking water and wild habitats and the profusion of tanker trucks with their CO2 emissions, amongst other concerns.

Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP called for a moratorium on fracking in the area, expressing concern about the potential water shortage as well as contamination, saying that more study is needed on the consequences of fracking, and more specific legislation should be in place. He cited a recent report of water contamination in the U.S. that was supposedly caused by fracking for shale gas (though that report has been contradicted by other studies.)

The gas company Cuadrilla, whose fracking operations in Lancashire last year reportedly caused two minor earthquakes in the vicinity, has acquired permission to drill and perform fracking operations at a site close to Balcombe, West Sussex. Since January there have been numerous protests from locals, some of them quite raucous, and officials on local and Parliament levels are under fire from residents, environmentalists and others.

In Europe, both Switzerland and France have put moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing operations, and the big questions seem to revolve around inadequate safety measures. Basically, there’s a lot of conflicting information regarding the potential benefits versus the potential dangers of fracking. This method of extracting gas/oil from deeply buried rock strata has been in use for quite some time in Canada’s wide open spaces, but when it’s this ‘close to home’ the risk factors go up.