The Socialist 8 June 2011
We are fighting back!
PDFs for this issue
Earthquakes, explosions, water poisoning...
End the 'insane' pursuit of oil profit
In parts of the USA you can set fire to your tap water. Now an enterprising company seems to want to bring the practice to Britain.
Cuadrilla Resources has been drilling for gas, the first company to introduce the notorious technique of "hydro-fracking" into Europe.
Cuadrilla had to stop, however, over suspicions that it caused two earthquakes in Blackpool, one of around 2.2 magnitude, centred around the drilling site.
Local resident Caroline Murphy, told the Blackpool Gazette: "I was literally shaken from my bed at 3.40am yesterday. I've never felt anything like it, it can't be coincidence they are drilling nearby.
"I want to know who is regulating it."
Gas in tap water
The government told the Financial Times it had "no current plans" to carry out a review over shale gas drilling, which it believes to be safe. Under extremely high pressures, hydraulic liquid fractures rock containing gas or oil.
The gas and hydraulic liquids escape - despite denials by the fracking experts - and enter the groundwater. Rural communities and farms that draw water from wells find explosive gases emerging from their tap water.
The water is only good to burn in any case.
The hydraulic liquid - dubbed "water" by the fracking industry - is said to contain the carcinogens benzene and formaldehyde, but companies will not disclose their "trade secrets."
Videos showing people setting fire to their water supply went viral in the US last year - two US states have stopped all fracking activity. You can imagine someone leaving their tap running for a while, then turning on the cooker and blowing the roof off their home.
The US Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration astonished and outraged environmentalists by predicting that shale gas will provide 45% of the USA's gas by 2035.
US oil imports are predicted to be halved, with fracking producing 4.5 million barrels of oil a day, twice the Gulf of Mexico's output, by 2020.
The methane released into the environment by fracking is a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than CO2. Global warming is currently heading to the very worst scenarios discussed by climate change experts, while at the same time, oil is becoming more expensive to produce.
Even the highly conservative International Energy Agency (IEA) declares that the era of cheap oil is over. But the oil companies, rather than moving to clean, cheap, renewable energies, are moving to new, expensive and explosively dangerous methods of gas and oil extraction.
US government data shows that the world's carbon dioxide (CO2) levels "peaked last week at the highest levels on record" while 2010 was the worst ever year for carbon emissions, leaving the "climate on the brink".
At the current rate, the world will hit levels even the IEA consider dangerous next year, instead of the predicted 2020.
Even Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA which puts pressure on OPEC oil-producing states to "drill, baby drill", told the Guardian that the clear risk of catastrophic warming is "a risk any sane person would seek to drastically reduce."
Fracking appears insane. But it is driven by capitalism which has no ethics or concern for the environment. US oil rigs in operation went up from 200 to 800 over the last two years, egged on by the high oil price.
An estimated 40% of oil rigs are located in Texas. Leaving aside the explosions, poisoning, earthquakes and global warming, a small cloud appears on their horizon.
Fracking uses a huge amount of water - it can require over a million gallons of water per well - but Texas is experiencing its driest seven-month span on record.
So ironically, global warming, which will be accelerated by fracking, is depriving Texan oil merchants of the water required to do their dirty work.
Even so, we have been warned. This insanity must be replaced by a socialist energy plan, in the UK, the USA and internationally.
A socialist economic plan would be able to allocate resources based on the needs of people and the environment, not on profitability. It would allow money to be invested in research for new, clean energy sources or for real improvements in existing technology.
Capitalism, however, is interested in profit not safety - it is the main enemy of the earth.
In this issue
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party women
International socialist news and analysis
Young people fighting back
Socialist Party news and analysis