Fracking - what do we all make of it?

Placard from the 'desolate unloved northwest' at protest against Cuadrilla drilling & fracking © Ma

Placard from the 'desolate unloved northwest' at protest against Cuadrilla drilling & fracking © Martyn Wheatley/Alamy Live News - Credit: Alamy

It’s not in my nature to take an irrational dislike to things. I always consider my dislikes to be entirely rational. It’s just other people who sometimes see them as a bit bonkers. But I’m going to make an exception when it comes to fracking.

It’s a debate I enter with trepidation. Science was always an enigma to me at school – and the biggest puzzle of all was: Why does the physics master keep hitting me? Even today if you asked me to explain how the telephone works I’d probably mumble something about witchcraft. Or is it voodoo? No, I’m pretty sure that’s what makes the dishwasher clean plates.

Everything I’ve heard about shale gas extraction has either come from people who are mouth-frothingly against it or those who are gagging to get on with it, like small boys needing the loo. I can’t find anyone I really trust to tell me the truth.

I’ve watched documentaries about wild men in the Appalachians, who put down their banjos, turn on the tap and see their water bursting into flames. I know the mere act of carrying out test drilling caused the earth to move for entirely non-romantic reasons. And I am told about a process that uses a cocktail of secret chemicals that will make drinking water toxic enough to melt my fillings. (OK, I exaggerate for dramatic effect.)

Against that, I’m told the wind farms blighting our landscape are useless and won’t provide us with enough electricity to power my auntie’s foot spa. And don’t forget fracking has created a zillion jobs in America and it has made domestic fuel so cheap they practically pay you to use it.

I’m not sure if this is the point when I become irrational or incredibly clear-headed because I feel that of all the claims and counter claims, this is the biggest lie of all. If they fracked every square inch of the UK for the next 100 years there will be no reduction in domestic fuel prices. Not a penny. That’s not the British way.

And will they frack every square inch? Not likely. That ermined ninny in the House of Lords let the cat out of the bag. He wasn’t sufficiently compos mentis to tell the north east from the north west but we understood what he meant: Fracking in the ‘desolate and unloved’ north - good; fracking in the south - very, very bad.

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I suspect this will be the main thrust of the Government argument over coming months (supported by the affluent and politically-influential southern anti-fracking lobby) and we will be powerless to do much about it. It will be a re-run of the policy to give power back to local people while changing the planning rules so it’s almost impossible to oppose large-scale developers building on your doorstep.

Shale gas is a short-term solution – a way of putting off the hard decisions about long-term renewable energy sources.

Politicians just love short-term solutions because they aren’t here for the long-term. It sounds dull and bureaucratic but I think we need to take a year out while a short, sharp Royal Commission examines all the options for our future energy needs.

Issues like fracking are too important to be entrusted to pink-faced politicians. Heck, I look across the political spectrum and I wouldn’t trust them to run a whelk stall.

I’d be interested to know what you think about fracking. If you have enough energy, you could drop me a line.

Have a great, earthquake-free month!

Roger Borrell