communities get fractious about drilling for shale gas_Newspaper

Communities get fractious about drilling for shale gas
Test drilling for a source of gas that could make a huge contribution to the
UK's energy supply problem has been halted on safety grounds after
hundreds of protesters blocked roads at one of the first sites in England where
the government hopes the gas will be extracted.
The latest development will come as a disappointment to the energy experts
who suggested that 'shale gas', which is believed to occur in vast quantities in
underground rock layers across much of Britain, had the potential to provide
power for millions of homes.
In the USA and Canada, where drilling or 'fracking' (a shortened version of
'hydraulic fracturing') for shale gas has only recently been perfected, the
successful exploitation of the new energy source has boosted energy
reserves. The technique involves injecting water under high pressure into
layers of rock to force out the gas locked within.
A spokesperson for the residents of the West Sussex village of Balcombe,
which is at the centre of the controversy, said that they understood the
potential benefits of fracking, but were against the technology being used in
their local area for a number of reasons.
The spokesperson said that local residents feel that the technology has not
yet been proven to be safe, with earthquakes being caused by fracking in
other areas of the country and concerns that drilling for shale gas could
contaminate water supplies. Additionally, there is concern that the natural
beauty of the area will be spoilt by unsightly drilling operations, with many
residents feeling that less sensitive sites could be found elsewhere.
The problem has been made more complex and difficult to resolve owing to
the lack of impartial scientific information on the pros and cons of fracking,
which is largely due to the short time that the method has been in use across
the world. This has led to both sides using limited – or even dubious – data to
back up their claims.
A spokesperson for the drilling company said: 'We welcome discussions with
local people but we are concerned that some environmental protesters from
other parts of the country have travelled to the test drilling area to join the
campaign, despite having little or no knowledge of fracking or the local issues
at stake here. These protesters seem intent on making a nuisance of
themselves despite many opportunities to engage in reasonable debate with
people whose views differ from their own.'
© Brin Best and Steve Padget 2014