There is no more divisive sector in energy production as fracking. Attempts to introduce it across the UK has encountered widespread opposition from local residents and activists. Now, Scotland has essentially banned fracking after a consultation that found public opinion largely against the energy extraction process.
According to campaign head for Friends of the Earth in Scotland, Mary Church:
“This is a victory for the environment and for local communities fighting fracking. This is a huge win for the anti-fracking movement, particularly for those on the frontline of this dirty industry here in Scotland, who have been working for a ban these last six years.”
What is Fracking?
While many people are aware of fracking, as well as the controversy behind, a large percentage admit to being ill-informed about what it is in reality.
There is a large supply of natural gas underneath the ground but it’s difficult to extract. Fracking is a process where we drill down into the earth and then use high pressure water, sand and chemicals which work to release the gas inside. It’s proved popular and profitable in countries like the USA but it hasn’t been without it’s controversies.
Why Is It So Divisive?
There are major environmental concerns with the fracking process. Environmentalists contest that forcing water down into the ground releases potentially harmful chemicals and contaminates ground water.
The industry counters this by saying that this is down to companies using bad processes and that this can be guarded against using legislation and best practice. The environmentalists, in turn, counter that there are better, more cost effective methods of energy production such as renewables which we should be concentrating on rather than trying to extract fossil fuels from the ground.
The potential for fracking operations to start work all over the UK has led to widespread protests. It was made worse when the Government decided, in principal, to allow fracking in National Parks.
The Future of Fracking in the UK
Scottish MPs voted to endorse an effective ban on fracking by 91 to 28 in October this year. It came after a consultation found that there was widespread opposition to the process and the belief that it would hamper the Scottish Government’s attempts to cut down their own carbon footprint.
The consultation got around 65,000 responses of which an overwhelming number were against fracking. Many of these respondents were in old coal mining districts that had been specifically targeted by fracking companies. This leads on from a ban in Wales that essentially leaves England isolated. Wales introduced a moratorium in 2015 which opposes fracking and blocks the practice, at least until further evidence comes to light.
The decision in Scotland hasn’t gone down well with fracking companies, including Ineos who operate the Grangemouth petrochemical plant in Scotland. Their contention is that England will now benefit from billions of pounds of investment and jobs through the fracking industry and those north of the border will miss out.
According the Ineo’s Shale Operations Director, Tom Pickering:
“It is a sad day for those of us who believe in evidence-led decision making. The Scottish Government has turned its back on a potential manufacturing and jobs renaissance and lessened Scottish academia’s place in the world by ignoring its findings.”
Others naturally see it as a victory for the environment and there is now a push by the Scottish parliament to have the moratorium enshrined in law. There’s no appetite for fracking in the UK, especially now that more of us want to see renewables given their fair shake.