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A Fracking disaster in the making

THE CAPITALISTS’ LUST for oil and gas knows no boundaries. From wars to extortion, economic sanctions and environmental disasters, these are all just unfortunate blips in the profit figures for those who control the globe’s ever-dwindling supplies of fossil fuels.

In recent years rising oil prices, in part due to the instability caused by imperialist war in the Middle East, has brought heightened interest in hydraulic fracturing (fracking), as a method of extracting more fossil fuels from oil and gas wells.

Fracking essentially involves pumping hundreds of thousands of litres of water mixed with toxic chemicals into the ground at very high pressure, either into an old and partially spent oil or gas well, or into a hole drilled specifically for the purpose. This mixture opens up cracks in the rock deep underground, forcing out gas and oil. Approximately 50 to 70 per cent of the fluid pumped into the ground remains there.

The process came to public attention last year, when a site run by energy company Cuadrilla near Blackpool was linked to the first confirmed case of earthquakes directly caused by fracking in the UK. Scientists have known for a long time that fracking can cause earthquakes, but there have been mixed reports about just how serious the effects could be.

Some researchers are convinced that the process can produce only very low magnitude earthquakes, barely big enough to notice.

Others have voiced concern over the large volume of toxic fluid that is left in the ground, arguing that earthquakes can cause this fluid to migrate through the natural underground fissures that hydraulic fracturing makes use of. They fear that earthquakes will allow fracking fluid to reach the aquifers from which water supplies are drawn.

One thing that is certain in the current economic downturn – as well as in the heightened tensions between the old imperialist heartlands and the Middle East – is that any source of fossil fuel will be exploited, regardless of the environmental cost. It is after all profit and not the environment that motivates the companies that promote the fracking of these wells.

The UK government is serving their agenda by ignoring the advice of researchers and approving further oil well exploitation after the Blackpool earthquakes.

In addition, government policy allows fracking companies to regulate the pollutants they put into the ground themselves. With no official watchdogs to hold them to account, it is community and grassroots campaigns that are on the frontline against fracking.

We are in favour of a suspension of fracking to prevent vast quantities of toxic chemicals being put into the ground without oversight or control.

And we believe that dependence on the exploitation of fossil fuels needs to be phased out, with investment in sustainable energy financed by the taxation of the biggest oil and gas producers and those who pollute the environment.

This investment should be directed both towards large infrastructure projects, such as wind farms, and towards smaller, more distributed methods such as solar panels.

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