Common fracking sense

  •  The culture of objection.
  • The need to base argument and conclusions on facts. If common sense reigns, we can do this safely or not at all.
  • We have the technology and responsibility.
  • We can regenerate the excitement and hope of the 1960’s.

By Bill Butterworth

5 April 15


Compound and gas head

Construction of a gas head. Take emotion out of the discussion; the technology says that if we have the right inspection culture, we can do fracking safely. Fracking is normally used in geothermal drilling and safely so, Yet nobody objects. Why is shale gas exploration different? It isn’t.

The trouble with common sense is that it isn’t common any more.

My wife and I were born in the1940’s and went through the 1960’s in our early 20’s.  We had children who, at around 10 or 12 years old, when 60’s music came round again, asked, “Were the 1960’s really exciting?”  My wife and I looked at each other and paused, then together, our eyes opened wide and in unison said, “Yes, they really were.”  There was a positive, hopeful feeling about the future and a culture of enthusiasm.

These days, whatever anyone plans, there is always a NIMBY group who march and wave placards.  Worse than that, what is commonly called by professional objectors as “direct action” allows them to cause serious problems that have been agreed by an elected government in a democracy. Peaceful objection is a strength of democracy.  Physical obstruction and violence is not. It is too easy for organised and peaceful groups to get high-jacked by irresponsible people for their own ends. In moral terms, in the long run, the end rarely justifies the means.

Why bring this argument up?  Well, I went to the funeral of a good man in North Yorkshire last week.  One of the respectful assembled drew my attention to some local newspaper cuttings on local objections to possible shale gas exploration in the Ryedale area.

Fear is often unreasonable and this, as many “anti-fracking” groups, went beyond asking perfectly reasonable questions and had already decided what the answers are, at least partly in ignorance.

What happened in the USA? Many reports of irresponsibility and environmental damage are certainly justified and we really do not want such things to happen here. They probably won’t for several very simple reasons.

  • That was there, then.
  • Lessons have been learned, even in the USA.
  • This is here, now. We live in the most regulated country, in the most regulated continent that the world has ever known.
  • Our Environment Agency, believe you me, will be covering their backs very, very carefully.
  • Generally, we the British, believe it or not, really do have the best technology in the world and our technologists are the most responsible in the world.
  • There are drilling fluids which are very safe; British designed and drinkable, they willnot pollute ground water.

Question is, is the great British public, and you as an individual, prepared to demand the facts and consider the situation carefully and with common sense without getting emotional based on rumour?  Provided we do it sensibly, and if it is right and properly safeguarded, we do get on with it, this is potentially an enormous bonus for our health services, our public services generally and our kids.  It could re-generate the feeling of hope and excitement of the ‘60’s again.