With UK chancellor George Osbourne preparing to deliver his autumn statement this afternoon, the press has been briefed that the government is preparing to back fracking in Britain.
If this is true, then David Cameron’s claim in 2010 that this would be Britain’s greenest ever government will be well and truly obliterated.
Hydraulic fracturing – fracking for short – is a very expensive, environmentally damaging process. Indeed, fracking operations in Lancashire were halted in 2011 when the Fylde coast, including Blackpool, was hit by earth tremors of magnitude 2.3 on 1 April. This was followed by another of magnitude 1.4 on 27 May.
It is also a very carbon-intensive process which will do nothing to help us hit our emissions targets.
Dr Mike Stein is founder of the Trillion Fund, an online investment platform for large-scale renewable energy projects. He wasn’t impressed.
Ventures such as his stand to benefit from a sustained move towards renewable energy sources. But then transitioning to renewable energy is as much about giving power to new interests as it is about new technology and combating global warming.
He said: “Like an alcoholic turning to the white spirit under the sink when the drinks cupboard is bare, the UK’s energy industry is turning to shale gas as a desperate alternative to fossil fuels. In our view, it will do the job, but could cause more damage in the process and is not the energy recovery programme that society needs to reach stable, long-term energy security.
“We have to ask ourselves: do we want the quick fix or the cure? Fracking carries with it all the problems associated with conventional fossil fuels – most notably, climate change – but the harm caused to society could be even greater.”
And he continued: “Should the chancellor go ahead with tax boosts for fracking and subsidies for a new generation of gas-fired power stations, the fossil fuel sector would have the short-term means to keep fuel flowing through the pipes and to continue to make profits. In contrast, the widespread adoption of renewable energy would enable people to bypass the massive energy companies and erode some of their power over the energy marketplace.
“To become healthy again, the alcoholic has to decide to change. This is the hardest part. Denial of the problem may seem easier and so the sickness remains.
“The UK has an historic opportunity to kick a dirty habit. Changing direction from concentrated energy supplied by a handful of companies to dispersed energy generation owned by communities could transform our lives. The environment will benefit and so will the economy, not least through the creation of new jobs. Community ownership also enables people to make a profit from their investment.
“By changing who can invest in energy, we do far more than just improve our energy supply – we redistribute wealth and boost democracy. It is time for the UK to lead the world again and demonstrate the willpower to kick a bad habit. The best tool we have to get clean is to switch who is earning the money – from them to us.”