IS fracking all it is fracked up to be? On Radio 4 recently, an expert said the name ought to be changed because it is just a technique used since the 1940s.
He proposed horizontal drilling, which is not very specific. All the problems come when fracking and horizontal drilling are applied to shale.
So a more accurate name is shale fracking or ‘shracking’ for short.
Shracking is this new industry, with multiple wells every one-and-a-half miles, heavy traffic, toxic chemicals and pollution, which industrialises the countryside.
The problem with shracking is that the conditions in the US and UK are completely different. The US has 40 times the land area of the UK, so they can afford to loose a few million acres – we cannot. Furthermore, our population density is eight times theirs, so every square mile shracked affects eight times as many people.
We also use two-and-a-half times as much oil per square mile. So this policy cannot have the same economic impact as in the US, because there is not enough land.
Shracking has also been oversold. The recent British Geological Survey Report says there is two to eight billion barrels of oil in the shale beneath the Weald, but ignores the low extraction efficiency.
Professor Aplin of Durham University points out that at most five per cent can be extracted (based on US experience), and in practice the figure is likely to be only one per cent because clay in the shale makes it difficult to fracture. So even if the Weald is shracked from end-to-end, it will only produce 20 to 80 million barrels, which is about two to eight weeks’ supply for the whole of the UK.
It is simply not worth destroying the Weald for a few weeks’ supply of oil. It won’t even lower prices, except our house prices.
Thus shale fracking is not a viable policy on this overcrowded island, and should be rejected.
However, there is a potential solution – tidal power. Unlike shracking, tidal power is sustainable, and does not produce CO2. Furthermore, while oil wells run out, tidal power will continue for centuries – as long as the moon goes round the earth.
As an island race, we should be leading the way in developing tidal power.