Look At It This Way - September 23, 2011

Have your say

Welcome to Dallas on Sea. The headline rocked my peace of mind this week. It was as if Godzilla had trampled all over the flatlands of the Fylde.

Four hundred shale gas wells are likely to pockmark our locality within nine years. Double that amount in double the time.

In nine years I’ll be 64 and finding out whether the Government still intends to retire me at 66 - or 70. With luck I’ll still be in a job and certainly the economy would be boosted by shale gas drilling.

But I’m with the environmentalists when it comes to the industrialisation of agricultural land. For much the same reason, I don’t want a pair of giant pipelines snaking 1200 km across north America.

One pipe will carry Alberta mined fossil fuel bitumen, raw material for oil, the other the stuff needed to make the tar viscous enough to flow. And that’s in order to ship it off to - China - one of the greatest offenders in global warming terms.

The bears, wolves, salmon and first nations of British Columbia’s last great wilderness don’t get a say. It’s not in my back yard but I’d rather act locally and think globally to ease the post-apocalyptic forecast of darkest climate change for our children’s children.

Fracking, fracturing of the earth by chemical cocktail to force gas to the surface, is happening on my doorstep. And I don’t like it here any more than the campaigners do mobilising against fracking in Australia, America and South Africa.

Even green fuel isn’t clean fuel, all coming at some cost to the environment, as any anti-wind turbine campaigner will tell you, but that’s where the emphasis should be.

Little Britain could fit into one of the many great American states many times over. But there’s gold in them there Fylde flatlands – not black gold, Texas tea, but shale gas tapped deep beneath the surface of Lancashire’s most unspoilt countryside. And the Americans are here to get it. We are the bedrock upon which the new klondyke will be built. This could be bigger than old King Coal - and dangers still exist there too.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m as likely to sell out my principles for profit as the next woman. I did when it came to the offshore turbine debate, even as a member of the RSPB, arguing that sourcing alternative power was more important than any impact on the breeding ground of the common scoter (aka hysterical duck for its tendency to fright and flight). When it came to a choice between sustainable renewable energy and a flighty waterfowl I preferred my duck - rare. Not that it’s made a damn difference to my fuel bills. They still rise relentlessly while the Government twitters on about switching to cheaper suppliers instead of cap fat cats cashing in.

Shale gas, although far from low in carbon, is a fossil fuel with lower emissions than coal and not significantly more than conventional gas, but it’s the fugitive emissions or the risk of migrating chemicals that concern me. And there’s no easy fix.

Earlier this year Energy and Climate Change Committee chairman Tim Yeo dismissed fears as “hot air”. That was before two tremors struck the Fylde and Cuadrilla to their credit halted work. A report, and I’d like to know whether it’s independent or inhouse, has yet to determine whether fracking contributed to the quakes. If it did implications should give us all pause for thought.

For me, the lines in the sand are drawn. Unless guarantees are truly watertight I don’t want the Fylde to become Frackers Coast. Fossil fuel or no, remember the Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site.