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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 January 2014

Fracking - profiting from environmental destruction

Matt Kilsby

"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.

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In The Socialist 22 January 2014:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Real living wage now

Capitalism is a system in crisis

Pay me - I'm a banker!

What exactly is the point of Labour?

Stop the NHS sell-off

Bedroom tax loophole: Can legal tactics be effective?

Fracking - profiting from environmental destruction

Them & Us

International socialist news and analysis

Egypt referendum: no enthusiasm for new constitution

"Ireland is a success story" rhetoric is based on spin


Stop the student debt spiral - day of action 6 February

Youth Fight for Jobs campaign in Croydon

An open letter to Tristram Hunt

Socialist Party workplace news

Transport workers have power to defeat cuts

Teachers need a date for national action

Teachers strike against threatened redundancies

NUT strikes against management "observations"

More action needed to defend Probation Service

Publicity alone can't save sacked union branch official

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Lincoln marches against racism and fascism

Protest against Atos 'assessments' on 19 February

Salford workers and environmentalists challenge council

Stop cuts in Kent

Carlisle petition

Readers' comments and reviews

Benefits Street: A caricature of poverty

Leeds' forgotten dispute: The 1913-14 Corporation Strike

Robert Burns, insurrectionary poet


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