UK-News

Blackpool is sitting on shale gas gold mine which we could access if we brought back Fracking

At this time of year, the illuminations are Blackpool’s salvation. 

Tourists crowd the promenade to buy fish and chips as they watch a gaudy six-mile-long seafront light show that attracts millions to the once proud Lancashire seaside resort.

Blackpool needs every penny it can reap. 

With beggars, drug addicts, the jobless and homeless wandering the town centre, it has struggled ever since the 1970s when summer holidaymakers turned their eyes to cut-price hotspots in Spain and other sunnier climes.

Not far away from Blackpool’s promenade razzmatazz lies a piece of deserted land ringed by wire fences plastered with red-lettered notices. 

They tell nosy parkers to keep out of the forlorn place, which until last year was a hive of activity aiming to bring a near endless flow of low-cost energy to Britain.

In sight of the resort’s famous tower and beside a busy A road, this pinprick on the national map is where Britain’s flirtation with fracking lived and died.

The process of extracting shale gas from underground rocks with high pressure water and chemicals promised to give struggling Blackpool a new lease of life with hundreds of jobs – and also to reduce our nation’s reliance on buying in a whopping 47 per cent of our gas from abroad.

At this time of year, the illuminations are Blackpool’s salvation. Tourists crowd the promenade to buy fish and chips as they watch a gaudy six-mile-long seafront light show that attracts millions to the once proud Lancashire seaside resort. Blackpool needs every penny it can reap

One mile beneath this part of Lancashire is enough cheap-as-Blackpool-chips gas to provide Britain’s needs for decades to come. 

If we made use of it, there would be no need to ship it in from abroad or pay sky-high prices to countries we would rather not do business with. 

So abundant is the supply that, in 2014, a youthful energy minister by the name of Matt Hancock declared: ‘We need to extract the gas that’s deep beneath the ground to improve our energy security and provide jobs and prosperity.

‘Aberdeen has become a global hub for offshore oil and gas expertise. We want Blackpool to become the hub for expertise in onshore oil and gas.’

Yet all hope of the fracking goldrush was laid to rest this week. 

Even though Prime Minister Boris Johnson had specifically mentioned the poverty in Blackpool as a cause of shortened life expectancy and talked again of the importance of ‘levelling-up’, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced that ‘fracking is over’ and the Government ‘has moved on’.

His announcement came just as Britain faces one of its biggest energy crises ever. 

Not far away from Blackpool's promenade razzmatazz lies a piece of deserted land ringed by wire fences plastered with red-lettered notices. They tell nosy parkers to keep out of the forlorn place, which until last year was a hive of activity aiming to bring a near endless flow of low-cost energy to Britain

Not far away from Blackpool’s promenade razzmatazz lies a piece of deserted land ringed by wire fences plastered with red-lettered notices. They tell nosy parkers to keep out of the forlorn place, which until last year was a hive of activity aiming to bring a near endless flow of low-cost energy to Britain

Fracking fell victim to a vicious, but hugely successful, propaganda drive by the green lobby and Russia. Above: A protest banner against fracking in Blackpool in 2014

 Fracking fell victim to a vicious, but hugely successful, propaganda drive by the green lobby and Russia. Above: A protest banner against fracking in Blackpool in 2014

A 60 per cent surge in wholesale gas prices at the beginning of this week, on top of earlier increases, triggered alarm in financial markets and businesses across this country and Europe.

The UK is heavily reliant on imports via pipelines from Norway and the EU, which itself gets significant supplies from Russia.

President Putin and Russia’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom have been accused of deliberately withholding supplies to manipulate the market and trigger the massive price hikes.

Whether true or not, the Government’s decision to stop fracking could not have come at a worse time.

Mr Kwarteng admitted he was once pro-fracking. But during his own stint as energy minister he had discovered it was a ‘disruptive’ force, he said. 

Predicting a future of nuclear energy, wind, solar and tidal power, he claimed that, in Blackpool, plates fell off shaking walls as drilling on the patch of land near the illuminations had got underway.

Certainly, something very strange did happen during fracking in Blackpool, but it was not plates crashing to the floor because of vibrations from drilling for underground gas – there has never been any evidence of this.

What really happened is that fracking fell victim to a vicious, but hugely successful, propaganda drive by the green lobby and Russia, which of course has ‘skin in the game’ in that it wants to continue selling gas to Britain.

And almost everyone swallowed its message in the Whitehall corridors of power walked by Mr Kwarteng.

First came a moratorium on fracking, and now the industry is over in Britain before it even began.

Now the fracking industry is over in Britain before it even began. Pictured: Protesters outside Blackpool's fracking site in 2014

Now the fracking industry is over in Britain before it even began. Pictured: Protesters outside Blackpool’s fracking site in 2014

To understand just how it happened, we have to go back to 2011 when experimental tests for fracking by a company called Cuadrilla started on that now deserted strip of land in Blackpool.

It soon attracted the attentions of Friends of the Earth which put out a devastating propaganda leaflet.

The leaflet said that chemicals used in the process could pollute household drinking water and cause cancer.

The drilling, it warned, might provoke climate change with shocking temperature rises, increase air pollution and threaten asthma sufferers.

Friends of the Earth added that, according to the government’s own website, house prices near this fracking site, and others, would fall. 

The leaflet showed a picture of a nice looking middle-aged lady called Pat smiling at the camera. Pat, said Friends of the Earth, had ‘saved her home from fracking. You could save yours too’.

On the same leaflet were dire messages about how beauty spots would be spoiled by fracking. 

A glorious picture of Grasmere in the Lake District – some 70 miles from Blackpool and nowhere near any drilling site – came with the warning: ‘Don’t let fracking destroy all this.’

This week, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced that 'fracking is over' and the Government 'has moved on'

This week, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced that ‘fracking is over’ and the Government ‘has moved on’

A protest banner against fracking at a farm site at Little Plumpton near Blackpool, Lancashire, in 2014

A protest banner against fracking at a farm site at Little Plumpton near Blackpool, Lancashire, in 2014

At the time Cuadrilla reacted angrily, saying the circular was ‘wholly inaccurate’. 

A spokesman explained that the UK Environment Agency allowed only fracking fluid that had been assessed and tested as non-hazardous to groundwater and, therefore, would not contaminate drinking water.

Friends of the Earth got a mild rap over the knuckles from the Advertising Standards Authority for putting out ‘misleading’ claims but the pressure group promised to keep up its campaign to stop fracking and expose its ‘dangers’. Which it did with some alacrity.

Soon we were being told by a growing band of anti-fracking campaigners that tremors, even earthquakes, were the problem.

The government bowed to pressure and enforced stiff rules which meant, if drilling caused a tremor deep underground of more than 0.5ml (local magnitude), it had to stop for 18 hours. And this red-light system duly halted work many times in Blackpool at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds a day.

Cuadrilla pointed out that if any other industry had to end work when it triggered the same level of vibration then ‘you would never get a wind farm or Crossrail built and many HGVs would be off the road’.

The vibrations that interrupted the drilling were, said Cuadrilla, smaller than those caused by quarrying, artillery training, mining, tunnelling underground trains, and pile driving at a construction site.

One early tremor at the site measured 1.1ml, and British Geological Survey (BGS) monitors said that this was felt by just one person locally.

According to local newspaper, the Blackpool Gazette, that person was, oddly, living in a caravan at a camp close to the drill site where anti-fracking activists had made a base with their own monitoring equipment.

In another incident, a bigger 2.9ml tremor was reported by activists and later verified by the BGS. Eco-campaigners said houses nearby had shaken during the one-second event.

Under the ground in Lancashire, and other parts of north and central England, are vast reserves of gas which could be fracked to the surface to save the day. Pictured: Anti-fracking demonstrators in 2015

Under the ground in Lancashire, and other parts of north and central England, are vast reserves of gas which could be fracked to the surface to save the day. Pictured: Anti-fracking demonstrators in 2015

Yet, it transpired the shake happened at breakfast time on a Monday morning when Cuadrilla proved it was not drilling and had not done so for two days previously over the weekend. The mystery has never been satisfactorily resolved.

Pro-fracking groups pointed, however, to a natural earthquake with a 3.1 magnitude a few years before at Newton Aycliffe in Durham, which was more powerful than the 2.9 tremor. 

According to the BGS, nobody in Durham reported feeling it. 

And in 2013, a natural earthquake of magnitude 3.3 was reported in Blackpool – resulting in no damage or injuries.

Meanwhile, the Russians and their 24-hour-a-day English language TV channel Russia Today were also lobbying against fracking because – it seems – President Putin was worried about losing grip on the world’s gas supplies.

On one occasion Russia Today reported that ‘frackers are the moral equivalent of paedophiles’. 

And, significantly, in 2014, the secretary general of Nato Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he had received reports that Putin’s government had launched a ‘sophisticated information and disinformation operation’ to discredit fracking, build up anti-fracking sentiment, and ‘maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas’.

Separately, a senior Nato official who insisted on anonymity also expressed his fears, saying: ‘We share a concern by some that Russia could try to obstruct possible projects on shale gas exploration in order to maintain Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.’

By now fracking had already become a spectacular success story in America. This was the face of shale gas drilling that the green lobby and the Russians did not want the world to know.

Yet the facts are amazing. The introduction of fracking in the US has revolutionised its gas and oil industry. 

As of January this year, the country had 1.7million shale wells, supporting 19million jobs – nearly 6 per cent of all employed Americans – and created a billion pound export market for its fracked energy products.

The US has been freed from the shackles of importing oil from ‘rogue’ foreign nations that can hold the country to ransom over its energy needs. 

Having risen for 30 years, America’s imports of oil are now negligible thanks to the fracking revolution, as the process releases oil as well as gas.

According to the US business magazine Forbes, fracking is perhaps the most important global energy development of the 21st century. Crucially, energy costs for Americans have plummeted. 

The ‘affordable gas from fracking’ saved American homeowners and businesses more than $500billion (£367billion) in energy costs in the decade up to 2018 alone.

The fracking adventure across the Atlantic did not come without the same battles against eco-campaigners that we have faced.

America, to its credit, stood firm against the scare stories.

In this country, however, bodies such as the Environment Agency and the BBC took them to heart, then civil servants and senior government politicians followed suit.

The result, according to pro-frackers is that a golden opportunity has been squandered for Britain to get hold of home-grown, secure, cheap and relatively clean energy.

Which leaves us where we are this morning, facing an energy crisis of epic proportions. Joe Malinowski, founder of TheEnergyShop.com, warns of a ‘gas bill explosion’.

It is not surprising that many say we are shooting ourselves in the foot by ignoring such natural riches. Protesters in Blackpool in 2016

It is not surprising that many say we are shooting ourselves in the foot by ignoring such natural riches. Protesters in Blackpool in 2016

He added this week: ‘We are heading for an increase of £500. If things don’t settle down, increases of £600, £700 or £800 can’t be ruled out. Energy supplies are falling like dominoes and without political action the outcomes will be terrible for consumers.’

And yet all the time under the ground in Lancashire, and other parts of north and central England, are vast reserves of gas which could be fracked to the surface to save the day. 

If only, perhaps, as a temporary measure until green energy is truly up and running and we can do without it.

It is not surprising that many say we are shooting ourselves in the foot by ignoring such natural riches.

‘It’s bizarre when just a mile under northern and central England lies a gas resource so immense that if we extracted just 10 per cent, we could meet the UK’s gas demand for 50 years,’ Katherine Gray, spokesman at UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said this week of the Government’s attitude to fracking.

And though she may have a vested interest, it seem certain that ordinary people enjoying Blackpool’s illuminations this week will understand her point as they struggle to pay their heating bills, higher than any in their lifetimes, this winter.

Most Related Links :
newsbinding Governmental News Finance News

Source link

Back to top button