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Fracking - profiting from environmental destruction
"We're going all out for shale" - said David Cameron at the same time as he announced bribes to councils and local planning authorities in order to spread fracking operations across the country.
Over the last few weeks as protests and direct action against fracking - or hydraulic fracturing, to give it its full name - have intensified, much has been written and said about the process in the media. But what are the environmental impacts of fracking? Is it safe? And who is set to profit from an expansion of mining and drilling?
Fracking is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks and release natural gas inside.
More than a million gallons of water are mixed with sand and chemicals - including lead, uranium and mercury - and then sent 10,000 feet below the ground through a drilled pipeline.
The fluid reaches the end of the well where the high pressure causes the nearby shale rock to crack, creating fissures where natural gas flows into the well.
During this process, methane gas and toxic chemicals leak from the system and contaminate nearby groundwater.
In America, where fracking sites are generally located in sparsely populated areas, methane concentrations are 17 times higher in drinking-water wells near fracking sites than in normal wells.
In densely populated Britain the probability of harmful contaminants entering our drinking water is alarmingly high. Meanwhile, more than 50% of that toxic fracking fluid is left underground forever.
So what about the jobs and cheap energy that fracking will bring? The government promises thousands of new jobs but the reality is very different.
This is because the fracking sites can be remotely operated, meaning very few local workers will be employed.
Furthermore, our energy bills won't go down because the gas produced will be sold on the open market.
Energy companies will still set the prices and charge whatever they need to in order to preserve their massive profit margins.
The energy companies will continue to rake in millions at our expense. No wonder Total - the French energy company that cannot frack at home because the process has been banned by the French government - is desperate to get its hands on fracking licenses in the UK.
Fracking is an insanely resource-intensive method of energy production and is indicative of the bankrupt capitalist system - a system which is incapable of looking after our environment and developing sustainable and green energy sources because it is transfixed by profit for the few.
Only socialism can properly safeguard the environment for us and future generations at the same time as making sustainable energy available for all.
We need to take the profit out of energy production and distribution. That is why the Socialist Party calls for public ownership and democratic control of the Big Six energy companies and a socialist plan for energy production, distribution and pricing.
In The Socialist 22 January 2014:
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