'No backing for fracking'
Sir, – Fracking or no fracking? That is the question, to which the answer, as far as Northern Ireland is concerned, is simple, clear and unequivocal: there should be no backing for fracking.
The fracking process uses high-pressure liquid to split subterranean rock and extract gas from shale. As regards the UK as a whole, the estimated value of shale gas beneath the ground has been titillatingly, tantalisingly tallied in trillions; the figure of £1.5 trillion has been quoted as part of this energy revolution in a “dash for gas”. But this quest for cheap gas can only meet a short-term need and provide profits to satisfy greed.
We have a responsibility to successive generations for the way in which we minimise pollution and carefully assess each new energy proposal.
Environmentalists point out the potential major damage, through fracking, to the landscape, the countryside and to the underground water table. The deep drilling causes fractures and fissures in the shale strata, which can make the ground above it unstable on account of the resulting vacuum.
In Northern Ireland, we have some of the finest aquifers, underground water-bearing rock with some of the purest water in the world. We simply cannot afford to put these invaluable water sources at risk of likely lasting damage.
Fracking in England was put on hold 18 months ago, after it caused two small earthquakes in Blackpool, Lancashire. These incidents should be enough to send shock waves through opinion in Northern Ireland. Furthermore, if gas were to be extracted through fracking, after a few years, the supply would be exhausted. With underground water supplies, on the other hand, the supply is replenished continuously.
The worldwide demand for pure water is ever increasing to the extent that some future wars may be fought in different parts of the world over this vital commodity. Water is, like liquid gold, sold both at home and for export. The supply of this element is replenished by nature, and the potential for sales will continue for centuries. Once gold, coal and gas sources have been exhausted, alas, it would take several millenniums before such elements re-form, if at all.
It has been announced recently that the Canadian company Tamboran Resources has outlined plans to develop 60 well pads in Fermanagh, at Belcoo and Garrison. The company’s objective is to produce cheap gas for 50 years. However, no planning application has yet been received.
The Stormont Environment Minister, Alex Attwood, who has personally declared himself against fracking, as a responsible Minister will consult widely on this contentions matter. We must not accept short-term gain at the cost of long-term pain. The protection of Northern Ireland’s precious water sources is of paramount importance and an essential consideration. – Yours, etc,