Fracking hell, what do we do about the energy crisis?

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October 21, 2013 by Adam Smith

Gas drill credit lockthegate Flickr

Credit: lockthegate, Flickr

After the first sitting of the Rational Parliament, I asked everyone who had turned up for what they’d like to debate next. The most popular answer? Fracking. So that’s exactly what we’re going to debate on 26 November: should we extract shale gas by fracking?

Here’s a video explaining the process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking)*:

The issues around this technology are diverse, complicated and need settling. They include: is fracking dangerous? does it provoke earthquakes and pollute our water? do we really need shale gas? how will we get our gas without it? will it make our energy bills cheaper? can we tax it to raise money for greener technologies? shouldn’t we invest in greener technologies anyway? shouldn’t we be thankful that there’s a new industry wanting to create new jobs?

The thing about fracking is that there is so much uncertainty around it. The protesters who marched on Balcombe this summer have made up their minds, but most people don’t know what to think. Even the science is uncertain: there seems to be no clear line about exactly what the environmental risks are and what are the social and economic benefits. It’s so hard to believe industry press releases, government ministers and hard greens. Everyone’s pushing a view. One of the only ways through this is to bring as many of these different views into a room, along with everyone who just doesn’t know what to think (I’m in this category) and some researchers and scientists who know a lot about the subject.

Balcombe protest - credit sheilabythesea, Flickr

Credit: sheilabythesea, Flickr

That’s why fracking is the perfect topic for the Rational Parliament. There’s plenty of publicly funded researchers studying the various aspects of the debate itself and involved in developing and testing the technology, so they can start us off. Everyone who turns up (that’s you!) can post their thoughts, questions and issues on our Policy Board before the debate begins—we’ll use these to work out which topics we need to debate to cover. And then we can raise our concerns, listen as others respond to them, and hear from the researchers and campaigners. Finally, you can propose a motion for what you think we should do and try to get everyone else to vote it through our parliament.

Remember, you can turn up to our debate with a view on fracking or not. I don’t care what you think, or even if you haven’t yet decided how you feel about fracking. But if you’re interested in why this is such a controversial topic and want to find out more, or if you want to explain your view and try and win people over, please come along. We need you. This parliament only works because people are willing to come and debate. Tickets will go on sale soon—sign up here to be the first to know when.

Your clerk,


* The video is produced by the designer Philipp Dettmer, whose website does not state who he works for, and some of its claims have been rebutted by a pro-fracking US lobby group. Nevertheless, its explanation of the basic process is clear and a good introduction.


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