Why are we arguing over the safety of fracking, when there is no need for fracking at all?

It has been known for some time that if global warming is to be limited to two degrees Celsius (2°C) between now and 2050, then only about a quarter of the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves will be needed.1 The figure of 2°C is not a number plucked out of thin air, but a figure the vast majority of climatologists consider the maximum increase possible to avoid seriously altering the planet’s climate.2 The logical conclusion from this is that if more energy is needed, it has to be supplied from renewable sources that do not pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The British government argues that fracking is cheaper, creates jobs and increases energy security. Yet renewables will also create jobs and increase energy security, and it has yet to be seen if fracking will be cheaper. The last time British politicians told us that energy would be cheaper, it was with nuclear power – they said it might even be free!! Instead, it proved ludicrously expensive, and we still do not know the final cost of nuclear power, since at some point in the future the nuclear power stations will have to be decommissioned. We have no idea of the cost of doing this, only that the taxpayer will be picking up the bill!!

The US and Canada are being touted as examples of how successful fracking can be. But it is wrong to expect that both price and safety of fracking operations in Britain will be the same as for US and Canada, since both these countries are vast, and fracking mainly takes place away from population centres. In Britain and most of Europe there is a much higher population density and the possible consequences – including financial, earthquakes, environmental damage and accidents – are therefore far greater. France has already banned fracking, and Germany will make a decision after the elections in September.

Renewables are the sane way forward for the planet, but of course, it could prove disastrous for existing businesses that make their money from extracting fossil fuels. Their share price and the value of the companies are based on extracting the fuel reserves that they own. If they were forced to substantially reduce their extraction of fossil fuels, their profits would plummet, their share price crash, and they could go bust. Therefore, these companies have a vested interest in ensuring that the extraction of fossil fuels continues without restriction.

Of course, these companies should have been planning to switch to renewables many years ago, and should, by now, be doing this on a large scale. Why haven’t they and why won’t they? Are they climate change deniers? Is it that they believe technological advances will arrive before Armageddon? Are they like religious fundamentalists, believing that they and their families will somehow be saved on the Day of Judgement? Or do they simply not care? Most senior executives have families, and it would be assumed that they would want their families to live on a planet that is pleasant, comfortable and bountiful. Why destroy it? The answer may lie in a study that found that many senior company executives are psychopaths!3

At some point in the not-too-distant future, governments will have to take responsibility, and accept that ‘the market’ and artificial devices such as carbon trading DO NOT WORK. (It’s not as though governments don’t already intervene in the marketplace! Industries such as banking, telecoms, the utilities and transport all require licences, and there are regulations, even if the regulators tend to be weak.) The planet is approaching a tipping point – often compared to spilling a pint of beer; once spilt, the beer cannot be put back into the glass. We have then reached the point of no return.

Mike Gold







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