Let’s close out Environment/Climate Day here at Dispatches with a post from Daniel Hannan, a British writer and journalist who has been Conservative Member of the European Parliament for South East England since 1999:
You’d think Greens would be delighted by the shale gas bounty under our feet. Here is a plentiful energy supply which does not emit soot (as coal does), nor jam estuaries (as tidal turbines do), nor starve Africans (as biofuels do), nor slaughter rare birds (as wind farms do). It does not require public subsidies (as both nuclear and renewables do). On the contrary, it will generate a healthy stream of tax revenue for the Exchequer. It will diminish our reliance on nasty regimes, from Tehran to Moscow – precisely the sorts of regimes that Greens march against. Oh, and it will reduce our carbon emissions, by displacing coal in electricity generators.
What, then, is the problem? Some campaigners talk of water pollution; others, a touch histrionically, of earthquakes. If either was a remotely serious prospect, we’d know by now. There has been a great deal of fracking in the United States, but not a single instance of groundwater being contaminated. As for earthquakes, well, yes, technically any tremor qualifies as an earthquake, but the kind caused by fracking is, according to the most comprehensive report to date, “about the same as the impact caused by dropping a bottle of milk”. The process has been pronounced safe by the Royal Academy of Engineering and by the Royal Society.
Of course, people are more prepared to believe the worst when they live in the areas likely to be affected. And, there’s no denying it, fracking will cause some disruption in the early stages, as all construction projects do. There will be lorries and workmen and general bustle. These things, though, are never as bad as opponents claim – just as, to be fair, the jobs are never as numerous as supporters claim. In any event, both the jobs and the disruption will be temporary. The gains will outweigh the inconveniences a thousand times over – and I say so as MEP for a region that will be more affected than most.