The last decade has seen an explosion in unconventional oil and gas drilling, as easy-to-extract hydrocarbons have become harder to find. The fossil fuel industry has been forced to resort to new and increasingly more aggressive extraction techniques.
In the USA, the environmental impacts of shale oil and gas wells have now been extensively documented. Wells are often drilled at densities of eight wells per square mile over large areas and have led to air and water pollution, and spills and explosions.
What has received far less attention is the systemic impact of these new, more expensive, energy sources on society as a whole.
Fracking and other extreme energy extraction methods, such as deepwater and Arctic drilling and tar sands, are not just poisoning communities and polluting whole ecosystems but completely reshaping the economy. It takes energy to extract energy, so a steadily increasing portion of the energy produced needs to be fed back to power further extraction, rather than be used by the rest of society.
In any such economic realignment there will be winners and losers and large energy-related corporations have been the main winners. It is far from coincidental that two major new political issues of our time, fracking and austerity, emerged simultaneously. Fracking companies have gained access to massive licence areas at minimal cost (a 10 km by 10 km licence block can be leased from as little as £2,500 per year) while public services and spending are brutally cut.
Tory manifesto shifts goal posts
The UK fracking industry has made so little progress in the last six years that the Tories have now promised even more exemptions for the industry in their election manifesto: they plan to remove the requirement for planning permission for exploratory drilling and to take away decisions on full-scale fracking from county councils.
Join the fracking resistance
With 10 million acres of the UK available to fracking companies there’s no better time to join the resistance. There are now over 300 anti-fracking community groups active across the UK.
Fracking is the reality check that brings the immediate impacts of fossil fuel extraction to the doorsteps of anyone within a licensed area. It crosses all class boundaries, pitting local communities, rich and poor, against the corporations of the fossil fuel industry.