Hollywood star and environmental activist Mark Ruffalo has called upon David Cameron to change his stance on allowing fracking to occur in the UK. Ruffalo’s statement comes as energy firm Cuadrilla seeks to appeal against West Lancashire Council’s decision to reject their plans for exploratory fracking. Calling Cameron’s decision a “legacy mistake” in a web video, he continued to argue that there was no way in which fracking was safe and added further that “your people don’t want it.” Ruffalo, who has been a long campaigner against fracking in the US, also called upon the British PM further to turn his focus to a renewable energy solution instead.
Fracking is the drilling down into the earth with a high pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals, directed at rock to release gas. Large reserves of Shale gas have been discovered across the UK, particularly in the North of England.
However, Cameron has seen widespread disagreement to fracking especially from local councils and residents. Earlier this year, it was announced that 100% of business rates collected from fracking sites would be given to local councils, a renewed attempt to gain support for the controversial plans. The Prime Minister will also seek to pacify local communities stating that the industry will consult them on how £5-£10million (revenue for a typical site over its lifetime) will be distributed. Residents possibly could receive a lump sum of £100,000 when a test well is fracked and a further 1% of revenues.
Cameron is pushing for the fracking of shale gas as it is believed to possibly ensure the UK with energy security, jobs and growth. It is estimated that 10% of the estimated gas in shale rock would be enough to meet Britain’s energy demand for almost 40 years. Fracking could also support tens of thousands new jobs and reduce the cost of bills for citizens. With the increased use of natural gas we also see the diminishing dependence upon coal, which sees widespread health benefits for the public.
Looking to the US, who has seen extensive use of fracking, has prompted various environmental concerns. Fracking uses vast amounts of water, which has to be transported, at a significant environmental cost. Fracking has also likely caused a huge increase in atmospheric methane (cutting methane emissions could end global warming over the next few decades). Furthermore we see carcinogenic chemicals being used, that may escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site. There are also worries that the process of drilling so far down causes small earth tremors.
In January 2015 MPs although rejected a complete ban but ministers still pledged that there would be an “outright ban” on fracking in national parks. This one concession however, was short lived, December 2015 saw MPs vote to allow fracking at 1,200m below national parks, Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads and World Heritage Sites.
Campaigners who oppose fracking attacked this U turn by the government and that the plans were “simply distracting energy firms and governments from investing in renewable sources of energy, and encouraging continued reliance on fossil fuels.” Groups such as the Friends of the Earth argue that Shale gas is not the solution to the energy challenges Britain faces, using fossil fuels will only add more to climate change.