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Dallas dreams or fracking nightmare?
Oil reserves have been discovered in the Horse Hill area around Gatwick airport. The chief executive of UK Oil and Gas Investments (UKOG) claimed there were up to 100 billion gallons of oil there though it is 3,000ft under the ground and it is anticipated that just 5% to 15% can be recovered.
UKOG predicts that by 2030 that the area could be producing 10%-30% of Britain's oil. But the oil company's predictions are seen as at least in part wishful thinking. After UKOG's announcement, the company's shares quadrupled in value. But even if this is maintained we will not see sudden drops in prices at the petrol pumps as the find is not significant enough to have an impact on the global price of oil.
The media made much of this find, declaring it will bring jobs and greater prosperity to the country. However, nobody knows how much oil there is until they have properly tested and drilled. If they have to drill deeper the fracking method will be used.
Many people are worried about fracking and campaigners are already gearing up to fight. Any drilling would face huge opposition as we saw at Balcombe in Sussex, the scene of big anti-fracking protests. Up to 80 people protested at Horse Hill last year and a dozen people kept a constant presence at the site for three months during test drilling.
Residents are worried that if this goes ahead these companies will go to great lengths to extract the oil. Trespass laws have been changed, so companies can access the oil from beneath peoples' properties and there are worries about compulsory purchase orders being used to gain access to the sites.
The jobs argument is also debatable. David Cameron claims the shale gas revolution would create 74,000 jobs across the UK. These figures (published by the Institute of Directors) are suspicious, not least because the report was funded by the fracking company Cuadrilla!
Environmentally this could be a disaster. We know so little about the dangers of fracking. In some states in America communities suffered water shortages and contamination in their water. Environmentalists say they have recorded far more earth tremors and more sink holes have been reported.
Surely the way forward is to invest in real solutions such as renewable power and energy efficiency. To plunder more oil from the earth when we have enough coal, oil and gas reserves to fry the planet seems utter madness.
What we do know is that the only people to truly benefit from this find would be oil companies' chief executives and shareholders. These people care only for profit and not for the consequences for ordinary people and the planet.
We can protect ourselves from this and everyone, not just the rich, could benefit. But the solution must start with nationalising the energy industries. Under democratic control we can plan for a much better future for all and use clean renewable energy that is kinder to our planet.
In The Socialist 22 April 2015:
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