The chairman of the Environment Agency backs Fracking

Posted: 10/05/2012

Fracking is a controversial method of extracting shale gas from underground sources. The process involves injecting high pressured water, chemicals and sand into drilled shale beds to release Methane gas, which can be stored and used instead of importing fossil fuels. The lucrative alternative has been nick-named ‘energy gold’ as the gas is in such high demand. Yet the method has been known to cause earthquakes, for example, Blackpool had a 2.3 magnitude earthquake last year. Fracking has also been linked with air pollution and contamination of groundwater.

Regardless of these risks, the chairman of the Environment Agency, Lord Smith of Finsbury, has backed the extraction of shale gas as long as it is monitored cautiously. Lord Smith admitted in his speech that Fracking, ‘potentially ticks the boxes on energy security, on availability and on cost,’ although when he came to answer of how safe Fracking is he said, ‘The answer is complex, and is something like 'up to a point.’

Is this a satisfactory answer? He continued, ‘But, with careful use of drilling technology, with rigorous monitoring and inspection, and with the development of a major programme of carbon capture and storage for gas-fired power generation, then shale gas could be a truly useful part of our energy mix.’

Lord Smith’s speech has sparked the anti Fracking group, Frack Off, to criticize his position, ‘Lord Smith's endorsement of commercial scale Fracking in the UK suggests the Environment Agency is either ignorant of the facts or ignoring them.’ A Greenpeace campaigner added, ‘Evidence from America suggests Fracking for shale gas could be as damaging to the climate as coal burning.’

The United States have been extracting shale gas for the previous few years which has been proved to cause small earthquakes and pollution of groundwater due to the chemicals used. This is why environment campaigners are against the process becoming a major energy source for the UK.

The areas of the country that have been found to contain shale gas are; under the Pennines from Lancashire to Humberside, Kent, Sussex, South Wales, Hampshire, Northern Ireland, central Scotland and under Blackpool’s coastline.

Lord Smith also made his view clear about another controversial energy source, nuclear power, ‘If you had asked me 20 years ago, I would have taken the traditional green view and said no, but now I am happy to admit that I have changed my mind, and it is the prospect of climate change that has changed it for me.’

Do you agree with Lord Smith that the use of Fracking and nuclear power is necessary to provide the country with future energy sources, or do you believe that the focus should be on greener options like wind power and tidal energy, rather than putting our environment in danger?

You can read our previous blog about Fracking HERE which discusses the earthquake in Blackpool.

Amanda McGovern, Pali Ltd

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(1) Comments environment, energy, Fracking

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