One of Liz Truss’ first orders of business as the new PM was to lift the ban on fracking. Fracking is the process of recovering shale gas embedded deep within rock and releasing it by blasting rock with high pressure liquid. It was previously banned in the UK after a 2.9 magnitude earthquake was recorded next to a fracking site and caused damage to the homes of nearly 200 people.
In 2019 the government reported that it was “not currently possible to accurately predict the probability of magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking operations” after Labour and many other groups demanded the government to halt fracking, all fracking operations in the UK were halted. Support for fracking had consistently remained below 20% so this ban was welcomed by the public. In addition to this, the Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly and Labour Party all oppose fracking. Even the new Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, as recently as March claimed that “no amount” of shale gas would help to lower prices. It is clear that there is very little support, even from the government, for fracking. So why lift the ban?
Lifting the ban on fracking would allow the UK to tap into its own energy source which would reduce reliance on external sources, from Russia for example, which may be why Truss has decided to lift the ban. In addition to this, the shale gas extracted from fracking would require less transportation to power UK and would be cheaper to the consumer as a result. This, in theory, could lower the cost of energy. However, as Kwarteng also said “Private companies are not going to sell the shale gas they produce to UK consumers below the market price. They are not charities.” It appears that fracking is a very costly venture for the UK for very little potential reward and very little public support. The real winners of restarting fracking would be the fracking companies themselves, not the people.
As well as the economic cost there is a huge environmental cost. Fracking is a large-scale operation that involved industrialising rural parts of the UK which may destroy animal habitats. Worst of all environmentally is its immense use of water. Fracking uses a tremendous amount of water, contaminating it with chemicals. 10 million gallons of water or more can be used on a single well. With 200 onshore wells being used in the UK before the 2019 moratorium this means a whopping 2 billion gallons of water being used which is the amount that 20,000 households use over the course of an entire year, being contaminated for solely for fracking use. This use of valuable water reserves for dangerous fracking is a payment not worth making. The environmental cost of water reserves and animal habitats is massive compared to the small yield of shale gas collected from fracking, this disparity shows that the cost of fracking far outweighs the rewards.
Finally, the human cost, people living in areas near fracking sights experience minor earthquakes as a result and often experience property damage. The biggest case was in 2019 when a 2.9 magnitude earthquake was recorded in Lancashire, right next to a fracking site. This earthquake caused houses to shake and groan, scaring many local residents and leaving them wondering if worse was yet to come. It has long been known that fracking causes earthquakes. So much so that if a 0.5 mag or above earthquake is recorded all drilling must cease for 18 hours. This weak protection is not enough. As the earthquakes grow in magnitude as does the risk, it surely should not take an injury as a result of a fracking earthquake to realise that fracking is a dangerous practice and that the risks far outweigh the rewards.
In conclusion, Liz Truss has lifted the ban on fracking as a desperate way to regain Britain’s energy independence after the loss of Russian gas and oil without taking into account the huge investment and risk required to frack as well as the relatively small yield of shale gas which will not be enough to power Britain. The environmental, economic and human cost all far outweigh any benefits the UK receives from fracking. There far better options to regain our energy independence such as solar, tidal and wind. All of which are less destructive, better for the environment and can create immediate results whilst the UK makes links to other external energy providers. The benefits of fracking are few and the risks are incredibly high.