Frack on, or frack off?

Image result for fracking process
Diagrammatic representation of the hazardous process

Profits, prices and power has become the priority for most of us, to the extent that we have depleted the natural resources made available to us with no regard for our future generations. Such is the case in “hydraulic fracturing” which has become polarised in recent years; however few people are aware of the process involved. Some have enforced that fracking is a revolutionary way to extract “cleaner” energy such as shale gas. Shale produces even more green house gas emission more than coal and other conventional fossil fuels during combustion. While others believe it is the solution for oil dependency and therefore lower oil prices. Put simply fracking is process to extract fossil fuels, similar to offshore oil rigs. What distinguishes fracking from other methods is the location. Most of us imagine the heavy industrial machinery to be to be planted in the most remote parts of the earth but fracking offers direct access to shale gas in the comfort of your back garden. And it is not only our lush gardens that are under threat, national parks and “protected” heritage sites are also in danger of ceasing to exist. With this ever-increasing threat to private property, can we continue to observe from the side-lines any longer? Fracking Countries strive to become independent oil producers whilst firms create a monopoly of fuel provider in hopes of lowering oil prices for consumers.I will explore the ways that the disadvantages of fracking heavily outweigh the advantages.

Many associate multinational companies with this amoral action, in reality it is because the UK government has taken advantage of its eminent domain in giving fracking licenses to MNC’s in efforts to improve financing to compensate for its ineffective spending. This is not only a dispute in the world of onshore drilling, it a fundamental flaw in our laws which can only be branded as theft.  Not only are regulations overlooked, the effect of fracking are taking a toll on our lives. As an already highly invasive method, the damages of fracking are amplified further by its use of vertical and horizontal drilling which combine to cause the crust to crumble. Additional high pressured water, sand, carcinogenic and radioactive chemicals shatter the layer of underground rock and contaminating our water supply.

Moreover back in April 2011 a Lancashire fracking injection was immediately terminated  after causing two earthquakes which measure 2.4 microns on the Ritcher scale. Considering a mere 0.5micron results in an immediate suspension and each scale division equates a tenfold increase in seismic activity, it is a hazardous and disillusioned chase for money. As a geographically stable country, infrastructure in the  United Kingdom is not adapted to the violent lateral forces during earthquakes as opposed to an active seismic area. Without state-of-the-art base isolation it would result in devastating effects such as deaths, loss of homes and ironically, monetary loss. It is worrying to think that these effects were only narrowly avoided by termination, any further delays would of multiplied the consequences.

The UK is renowned for its supply of fresh, mineral rich water and with the ever-increasing effects of global warming,  water is more precious than ever. However this water which is essential for life  is proceeding to be heavily polluted  thanks to  fracturing fluids. In the United States, carcinogenic concoctions consisting of hydrochloric acid, a highly corrosive mineral acid is used to erode cement residue from bore wells. With such a lethal potential, there is no doubt to what it would do to the human body. Taking into account that every fracking site has a unique geology, its own fingerprint, to apply the same fluid recipe to all would be a recipe for disaster. The basic formula would have to be altered each time to ensure the lowest possible risks are taken to obtain each batch of fuel. It is  critical to optimise the gain in energy  with varying levels of chemical input. With this extra time-consuming process firms are now reluctant to carry pre-drilling experiments out, for this would result in lowered revenue. Without personalizing the chemical brew, a less concrete filled well would be using the same volume of acid as a clogged one even though there would be no need for the extra acid.  Even if the exceedingly low pH of the acid could have been diluted with wasting even more water to act as a solute, the pH of desired alkaline drinking water will still be lowered. Short term drinking of acidic water has detrimental health effects such as skin and eye irritations. This is only one of the many consequences from a vast array of toxins, laws on fracking in the UK do not specify that it is compulsory for firms disclose their deployed chemicals. This is a loop-hole which the government have opened up for firms and means a perilous time for consumers. It is a sign that we should a wage war on the rigged capitalist game that is forced upon the working class.

When fracking was first initiated  in the UK promises of job creation fuelled the budding interest in support for fracking, but as only a few delayed positions came into force, it is apparent that the benefits were only  a muffled  mirage. The whole fracturing industry and in all, the entire fuel drilling industry is founded on technology instead of manual labor, therefore using this fact firms abide by the profit motive. Reluctantly admitted, the speed and agility of humans are of no match to machines when drilling the ground, factoring wages and rest hours then the machine is a prime candidate for extensive and repetitive work. Contradicting the original intention of opening more work opportunities for people, machine have become the benefiters.

While being on the road to become less dependent on oil imported from OPEC by employing fracking to harvest domestic oil and gas, the UK has followed a one way route reminiscent to the US. For years the US has been wanting to control the set the supply price of oil which has now ended in an infinite price battle with OPEC for finite resources to attract higher demand for US oil. The aim of lowering oil price has certainly  been achieved but it is not to be followed with dire consequences. A temporary devalue of oil allows fracturing firms to be more competitive in the foreign market which leads to consumers demanding for more oil and their standard of living increased due to increased discretionary income left over from purchasing cheaper oil. The government receives more in oil taxes from both consumers and firms. Persistent price deterioration halts fracturing firms as they can no longer be profitable with the equilibrium price of oil at around $50 a barrel, at least less than half its original value. Prolonged devaluing will result in severe  job losses as firms cut back expenses due to no revenue. The government will have to pay more in job seekers’ allowance to the unemployed, spending enormous amounts of money compared to the minute fall in oil prices.

The fracking practice should be immediately terminated in the UK and else where, more attention should be diverted to innovative renewable fuels. All the commotion cause by fracking only yields close to no benefits for the economy in the long-term.

Author – Jiangmin Hou

Jiangmin is a 5th year high school student currently studying five STEM subjects at Scottish Higher level-Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Computer Science and Chemistry. She is interested in pursuing a degree in Medicine after completion of Secondary Education

2 thoughts on “Frack on, or frack off?

    • Jiangmin Hou December 26, 2016 / 11:44 am

      Thanks once again Isaac, it is great to see others who agree on this matter!

      Liked by 1 person

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