As predicted when UK politicians struck a contentious deal on an energy bill, the UK government has now lifted a suspension of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for shale gas. It's all part of what some have dubbed chancellor George Osborne's "Dash for Gas".
Adam Vaughan over at The Guardian has a lot more details on the move, noting that the green light comes with new—supposedly stricter—conditions to monitor seismic activity and reduce the risk of tremors and earthquakes:
The first new site is likely to be at Anna's Road in Lancashire, near three exploratory fracking wells that were closed after two minor earthquakes last year, which Cuadrilla Resources, the company responsible for the operations, found were probably caused by the fracking. Dozens more sites across the country could be licensed as ministers signalled their hope that shale gas would help to make up for the decline in North Sea gas supplies.
Of course, while earthquakes and groundwater contamination are important, minimizing these risks does little to counter the central problem with fracking—namely it perpetuates our fundamentally dangerous addiction to fossil fuels.
As I argued in my piece on why fossil fuels will not help the working class, an economic strategy that is based on anything other than a rapid and ambitious transition to a low carbon economy is basically deferring the inevitable and jeopardizing our children's wellbeing in the process.
It's time to rip off the bandaid. It's time to get this done. We can't afford to wait.
On a happier note, however, some have argued that the Energy Bill's political horse trading over support for renewables in exchange for vaguer CO2 emissions goals is a price worth paying, and may even be a secret victory for UK renewables. With long-term support for clean energy now assured, and a huge question mark still hanging over future regulation of natural gas and CO2 emissions, there's good reason to think that investors will move their money to where the future clearly lies anyway. Especially as major investors are increasingly recognizing their own vulnerability to climate chaos.