This week Iran pre-empted an EU ban on oil imports from that country and halted its own sales to British and French buyers. Well, good. We should be comfortable that we are not funding a nuclear programme that might soon point the fruits of its labours at us or our allies, funding our own demise. William Hague said it would have no impact on our energy security, but only eight days ago crude oil prices hit an eight-month high. With our elderly frequently having to choose between eating and freezing during winter, North Sea reservoirs running dry, businesses paying extortionately to transport goods, and especially with the UK economy flat-lining, one would think we would fall upon a new resource of energy in our own country like it was manna from heaven. The stuff has been lurking unleashed beneath our feet for millions of years.
Last month a village meeting was held in the Sussex village of Balcombe, where Max Miller, CEO of the American company Caudrilla, attempted to assuage the fears of villagers about his company’s plans to explore for oil and gas by method of ‘hydraulic fracturing’, or ‘fracking’, in the near vicinity. He was largely unsuccessful. Amongst the audience was a large proportion of anti-fracking groups, determined to dominate and disrupt the meeting with clamorous interruptions. Mr Miller and his PR men were virtually hounded from the hall. The opprobrium piled upon them was the result of the extraordinarily bad reputation of fracking. The Green movement has absorbed multiple speciosities and dubious assertions, largely from the film Gasland, about fracking on the US Eastern Seaboard, to spread misinformation and fear about a really quite revolutionary energy source. No wonder the residents of Balcombe are afraid: reports of earthquakes and the pollution of groundwater; water coming out of taps alight. These are the bogeymen of fracking. The earthquakes, from similar drilling in Lancashire, were of minute magnitude. No similar faults exist underneath the Sussex Weald. The shale from which the gas would be tapped is thousands of feet beneath the aquifer from which water is drawn. The removal and transport of gas from the ground requires nothing more than a pipe: the gas ready to be used in homes. Combustion of gas releases half the carbon dioxide of that of coal. The benefits of this resource to our economy completely overwhelm any problems a very young industry has encountered. Would we have aviation or rail travel, if, after the accidents of their nascent years, the whole idea had been canned?
So why have we not embraced it, as the US has? Only ten years old, the fracking process is now responsible for 25% of America’s gas supplies. The industry has helped the economic recovery in that country. A similar scheme here would provide jobs and encourage growth. We might be able to stop our embarrassing genuflections to the House of Saud to get their oil. We might even be able to stop building those ghastly wind turbines. Lets not be blinded and shackled by greenish dogma, which so often is anti-capitalism wrapped in the mantle of environmental concern.