By William Mills
Nobody likes to see the countryside being built over but Britain is a highly industrialised and highly dynamic nation.
At Balcombe in West Sussex there have been huge protests evoking deep feelings. But it is unclear as to what the protesters are actually protesting about.
They are drilling for oil at Balcombe. So how did the protesters travel there? On foot? Or by fossil fuel guzzling transport on road or rail?
If the protesters aren’t against the rest of us using petrol along with themselves, then maybe they resent some methods of mineral extraction.
Fracking is a technique first used some years ago to remove natural gas from shale rock formations. There have been reports of environmental damage caused by nasties leaking into the water table which nobody wants. However most of the complaints have been fixed with practice.
In America shale gas has transformed the US economy. Fuel is the biggest cost of heavy industries such as steel making. Whilst Europe and the Far East have been paying more than US$ 17 a unit for natural gas, its cost the Americans less than US $ 4.
The cars, ships and other steel based exports are costing them a fraction to make compared with everyone else.
Mexico had to shut down part of its steel industry because they couldn’t compete with US prices. The liquefied NG they imported from Venezuela was too expensive to be economical. They are now eagerly awaiting a new gas pipeline from Texas to open.
For Europe to stay in the running we need to buy our energy supplies at the same price as our rivals do. And that means either learning to live with fracking or being dependent on foreign despots for our over priced fuel supplies and laying British workers off.
For centuries Britons have mined. Cornish tin first brought the Romans to our shores. In 19th and 20th centuries thousands of British workers toiled underground to bring coal to the surface.
Sadly accidents happened. People died. The landscape damaged. Water and air polluted. All in the name of progress and to bring us all the mod cons from washing machines to cookers.
However since coal mining wound down in the 1980’s great strides have been made in land reclamation. In the North where once mining spoil marked the countryside, open cast pits have been transformed into nature reserves and ponds. The ugly scars of the past are becoming the beauty spots of the future.
If we must have fracking surely the former coal mining areas would be the best sites. After all, they have the workforce with the necessary skills and expertise to see the job done properly and safely, as well as the road and rail networks needed for handling industrial volumes.