Fracking: Letter, Don Patterson 23.04.12

The Guardian, 23 April 2012:

According to the University of Texas, fracking has caused some hundred earthquakes in the US. One, in Youngstown, was recorded at just over 4 on the Richter scale. However, the government-sponsored report on fracking is a diversion, it has simply looked at the geological implications. The important issues are:

1. Water. Around 2-3m gallons of water are used for each well, which can be fracked up to 18 times. In the US there are at least 35,000 wells, so a lot of water is used over there, and here, in the UK we are facing a water shortage.

2. Pollution. The United States house of representatives committee on energy in April 2011 reported 652 different chemicals used in fracking, 29 of which are human carcinogens. In addition, the New York Times (27 February, 2011) reported the presence of radium, unintentionally extracted in the process. Between 40% and 70% of the water used comes back to the surface and has to be disposed of. Then the US Environmental Protection Agency recently announced, for the first time, that fracking may cause groundwater pollution.

3. Climate change. Increasingly large amounts of energy will be required to extract shale gas – methane. Some 2-4% of this escapes from the well, and it is several dozen times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO². Anyway, shale gas distracts from the real task which is to find effective renewable energy because, whether you accept climate change or not, we are going to run out of gas, oil, coal and even uranium one day soon.

Fracking has been banned in Bulgaria, France, New York, New Jersey, Quebec and Switzerland, and in parts of Australia and South Africa. We need to consider the implications of the process before we allow powerful international companies to start drilling in the UK.

Don Patterson
Buckfastleigh, Devon