17 August 2013

To frack or not to frack

There's been a lot in the media this week about fracking and the CofE's response to it. My own diocese made the headlines earlier in the week with the publication of a leaflet about fracking. The matter is clearly a complex one. We don't really know what the environmental effects of fracking are. There's lots of mythology from the experience in the USA, and there's genuine fear as a result of the earthquakes near Blackpool which resulted in the cessation of fracking work there.

The CofE has done its best to undo some of the publicity surrounding the Blackburn diocese leaflet. There seem to be some high-level politics at play here, and the church wants to remain neutral for whatever reason. There certainly seems to be unease at the CofE being landed with a universally negative opinion on fracking. Fair enough.

My own opinion is fairly simple; maybe too simple! I oppose fracking for the following reasons:

Moral and legal
If the uk is to get anywhere near its commitment to reduce carbon emissions, developing new methods of extracting fossil fuels from the ground isn't going to help. As I understand it, we have made a moral and legal commitment to reduce our carbon emissions. Fracking does not help us to achieve this; it actually makes it less likely! We can't keep digging up new fossil fuels and still manage the reduction unless the UK government gets interested in carbon capture - something that doesn't seem to be on the UK research agenda.

We have a fundamental responsibility to care for God's creation; stewardship of the earth is not primarily about using the earth's resources for our benefit; surely we are called to care for and preserve the earth. Digging holes which we fill with noxious chemicals under high pressure does not seem to be a good way of caring for God's creation. This isn't about NIMBYism, it's about NIGBYism - not in God's back yard.

The problem with fracking is that it doesn't deal strategically with the energy problems we have; it's a temporary stop-gap 'solution'. If we are to deal strategically with the problem, we need to do much more to reduce our energy requirements and we need to do much more to find new and better ways of generating energy from renewable sources. Fossil fuels will run out. Fact. We need to start behaving like this is true, rather than running after each and every 'get out of jail card' that technology offers.

So I'm glad that the Blackburn Diocese came out and voiced concerns. As Christians, we should be concerned. I hear the cautionary notes about those who cannot afford to heat their homes, and how fracking may be a way of keeping fuel prices down. Of course, fuel poverty is something the church should be concerned about, but I don't think the solution to fuel poverty is to grab the latest fix of fossil fuel energy to maintain the current prices. That seems to be a deeply flawed argument.

Ultimately, I think my big problem with fracking is the direction in which it looks. It seems to look back into a time when it seemed as though the earth would forever supply our fossil fuel needs. What we need are energy solutions which look forward into a world with depleted fossil fuel resources and a problem with greenhouse gases.

UPDATE: For more on the fuel poverty angle, have a read here.


  1. A petition to ask the Commissioners not to allow fracking can be signed here: http://is.gd/TBQvEq

  2. Sorry to be pedantic, but I'll sign it if Andii Bowsher corrects the spelling in the letter to hydraulic please

  3. Spelling is now correct. Anyone else fancy signing the petition?