New County Times columnist Simon Clare says we need to separate fracking facts form the rhetoric
AS DRILLING gear and protesters moved into position in Balcombe last week, the debate around the issue of shale gas exploitation in Sussex reached a new level of urgency.
With exploratory works also taking place in Adversane and Wisborough Green, Sussex has become the scene of a battle that could define the country’s approach to energy for generations.
It is claimed that releasing the shale gas trapped in the rocks beneath our feet will help avert the country’s looming energy crisis. We would have our own local source of cheap energy and reduce our dependence on imported gas; at least for a while. In such times of economic difficulty it would be irresponsible for us to let this opportunity pass us by.
On the other side of the argument are fears about the potential for pollution. Most of the water we depend on comes from aquifers which could in theory be exposed to the substances used in the fracking process. It would be irresponsible to risk the contamination of such a crucial resource for the sake of a short-term energy fix.
Behind these arguments is the greater question of whether it would be wise to add yet more carbon to the atmosphere. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is already at levels not seen for hundreds of thousands - possibly millions - of years. Those in favour of shale gas exploitation claim that it is a cleaner fuel than coal or oil and will therefore help us to reduce our overall carbon output.
As the debate rages on it can be difficult to separate the facts from the rhetoric. People on both sides repeat claims that support their opinions but all too often these claims do not bear scrutiny or just go unchallenged.
Local fracking is now a reality, so we can no longer afford for the discussion to be hijacked by hyperbole. It is time for those on both sides of the argument to give us some respect, tell us the facts and to let us make up our own minds - not to hoodwink us with unsubstantiated promises and irrelevant scare stories.
We need to inject some objectivity and awareness into an issue that has been marred by wishful thinking and ignorance.
Horsham Skeptics in the Pub are hosting a debate on this subject between Friends of the Earth and the Global Warming Policy Foundation on the 12th of August at the Tanners Arms. For details and tickets please go to http://horshamfracking.eventbrite.co.uk/