I remember, many years ago, when the concept of fracking ( or hydraulic fracturing) was first suggested, or rather, the first time it was raised in a public way as a possible source of further oil. I cannot remember where or when precisely it was, but I do remember that, at the time, it was totally uneconomic to pursue. At the time.
Of course, the economics have all changed in the last 15 years or so.
In the last few weeks, there have been protests in Balcome, one of the most significant sites in the UK. In the last few days, Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP for Brighton, was arrested for her role in protesting there. If nothing else, I think it demonstrates that there are some politicians who are prepared to stand up for their principles. In honesty, I don't know of any other party leader who would be so brave.
To my mind, there are two core issues with fracking, both of which represent major issues. The first is that the process appears to be problematic, causing potential geological issues in the areas that it takes place. Actually this is a difficult one, because the impact of the fracking process is complex and disputed. The truth is that there might be some problems with the local ground water. There might be issues about ground disturbance. However, in honesty, these are also problems with, for example, coal mining.
There is also a whole lot of disturbance when a locality has a new major industrial complex introduced. There are major impacts: new roads, lorries, industrial development, all sorts of impact. However, these are always the impacts of new industrial development in an area - Ironbridge, at the start of the industrial revolution, was a hideous place to be, because this is the nature of early industrial processes. Fracking will also turn places that might be rural into industrial sites. Is that a good thing? I suppose it depends on whether you like industrial developments, I guess.
So the first problem is really an issue of whether we want new major industrial development in our rural communities. It is not an issue with fracking per se, it is an issue with industrial development. I am in two minds about this, because the truth is that we have outsourced a lot of our industrial business to the third world. This has its own issues, because we outsource the pollution, the danger, the damage to other people. Is this fair? Probably not. Should we therefore re-introduce industrialisation to the UK? I am not sure we really want it.
However, the second problem is more critical, I think. The issue is that the development of a new source of fossil fuels puts us off any serious consideration of what we will do when they run out - and they will, within the lifetime of people alive today. The money that is put into the development of fracking technology and sites could be used to make a real impact on alternative energy sources. It will make the question of "what about when it has run out" a non-question again, which is a problem because it is a question that we need to address now, and find alternative energy sources now.
There are some suggestions that there is enough fuel in the currently known sources for 100 years.Maybe that is the case, or maybe not. The point is, they are expensive resources, and they will run out. It is our job now to find alternatives - alternatives that are less polluting, and less destructive. If not, all we are doing is leaving our children with a world where energy resources are again at a premium, and whose world is polluted beyond anything imaginable today.
Fracking is a bad idea. We need to address the wider and bigger issues around this, and put the resources into something else. Otherwise we are simply delaying the problems and compounding them for later generations. and I love my kids too much to do that.