I DON’T GIVE A FRACK!
By Stephen Kakouris
Scottish Government Backs Ban on Fracking… And the people of Scotland and the United Kingdom rejoice!
In the days of Trump’s anti- Paris Climate Change Agreement sentiment, and major hurricanes razing islands in the Caribbean- this begs the question of whether catastrophic climate change is starting to show more of its ugly face… A Government policy to ban a new source of fossil fuels in the UK could be considered a victory.
That being said, there are strong arguments to be made for having fracking in the UK as well.
Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of fracking.
1. Environmental benefits
Keeping fossil fuels in the ground is good for the environment and as the world is trying to transition to a low carbon economy, thinking twice before going gung-ho into fossil fuel exploitation is good.
2. “Not in my back yard”
Aka the “Nimby” argument. Very popular in the public opinion. People do not want to risk having their lifestyles impacted by fracking operations. In the United States, where fracking was a revolutionary development in altering the countries energy mix, there is a much greater land mass and the law states that anything that is beneath the land you own is yours to profit from. In the UK it technically belongs to the Queen.
3. The success of offshore wind industry, especially in Scotland
Yes, the UK is leading the world in the offshore wind department with more offshore wind capacity than all of the other countries COMBINED! There is also whopping 10 Gigawatts in the pipeline anticipated by 2023. This is a good step towards the £100 Billion of capital investment in Britain’s electricity infrastructure needed to replace coal fired plants…
1. What happens when the wind is not blowing?
Battery technology is not yet developed enough to store sufficient reserves of generated energy without losing half of it in transmission. Smart grids help efficiently distribute energy supply to meet demand but the UK has inconsistent seasons which can be a challenge for renewable sources.
2. The North Sea gas fields are rapidly declining
According to BP’s Global Energy report, The UK produced 7.3 Trillion Cubic Feet of natural gas by the end of 2016. That is half of natural gas produced by UK in 2006 and a quarter of 1996 numbers. Last year the UK is produced about 0.1% of the world’s natural gas. Some would argue that it is a good thing that Britain’s North Sea gas fields are heading towards decommission but it also means that now, gas that was produced by the UK needs to be imported from countries like Russia and Qatar at a more expensive price.
3. Zeroing out Coal
Shutting down coal power plants and moving away from coal completely has left a massive gap in the UK’s energy mix. Fracking diversifies Britain’s homegrown energy mix with a “transitional fuel” that emits much less harmful emissions than coal.
Opposing fracking does have environmental benefits but means that the UK will have to either rely on expensive imported gas to meet the gap left by coal or adjust energy policy to maintain a level of coal generation to meet energy demand.