New Fronts Against Fracking
From Planet 219
Kelvin Mason reflects on the divergent ways people in Wales are resisting the threat of fracking and climate change, and calls for a new set of values for the Anthropocene Era.
In Planet 212 (Winter 2013/2014), I wrote about the arrival of fracking in Wales in the wake of the Planning Inspectorate’s decision to permit test drilling in the Vale of Glamorgan. ‘Fracking’ is shorthand for the hydraulic fracturing of shale rock to extract methane or oil. Referred to in the Financial Times as ‘the most important innovation of the 21st century’, over the last few years fracking has indeed revolutionised global energy markets. As a result of fracking, the US now vies with Saudi Arabia and Russia to be the world’s biggest oil producer and is on its way to becoming a net exporter of energy. Looking at both the prospect of fracking in Wales and the open-cast coal mining already taking place, in the article I argued that both were forms of ‘extreme energy’. Extreme energy involves extracting fossil fuels that are difficult to access and that were previously considered non-viable or too polluting. Along with fracking, this category covers deep-water drilling for gas, tar and oil sands, underground coal gasification and coal-bed methane (CBM). Fracking, underground coal gasification and CBM could all be used in Wales.
Leaving aside the still hotly contested future of open-cast mining in Wales, in this article I will focus on fracking. There are legitimate public concerns about this form of energy extraction that include public health, excessive water use, causing earthquakes, well-head and transportation accidents leading to groundwater contamination, landscape degradation, and increased heavy traffic.