Fri, Aug 23, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Plenty of questions over the introduction of fracking in the UK

Advocates say it is a safe solution to our energy problems, but environmentalists think it is a disaster waiting to happen. The UK is searching for a balance between industry and the environment

By John Vidal  /  The Guardian

What impact will there be on wildlife? We have no idea. If it leads to further climate-change emissions, it will undermine the whole world. The RSPB fears that fracking will take place in many areas of Britain that are on the doorstep of important bird migratory routes. Other groups say flaring of gases and the clearances of land will inevitably damage the countryside.

Will it lead to cheaper fuel bills? It has done so in the US, but while Cameron and the industry argue that it could do the same in the UK, there is no evidence that it will. UK fuel prices are impossible to predict more than a few months ahead largely because the country depends on the global market and a handful of global suppliers.

What is in it for affected communities? Landowners and local communities have no legal right to a share in the revenues from the oil and gas, but they will get small payments to compensate them for surface disruption. The government has promised to pay £100,000 (US$160,000) for each exploratory well dug and that communities will then receive 1 percent of revenues if the drilling proves to be commercially viable. That could amount to millions of pounds. The companies, on the other hand, will get hefty tax breaks. It is still unclear whether local authorities will be allowed to choose which communities receive the compensation or whether the people most affected will be able to choose how to spend any money.

Will there be thousands of jobs? Cameron and the industry have estimated between 70,000 and 150,000 new jobs. If the industry figure of 1,000 wells is correct, that suggests 70 to 150 jobs per well, which is a lot considering the wells will be largely automated. However, there will be work for the construction, transport and mining industries.

Who is winning the PR battle? Cuadrilla and the industry can count on the Telegraph, the Times and the Daily Mail newspapers and have employed the giant public relations company Bell Pottinger, which has very close links to the Conservative party and specializes in mining multinationals working in developing countries.

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