Advantages and disadvantages
The extensive use of fracking in the US, where it has revolutionised the energy industry, has prompted environmental concerns.
Firstly, fracking uses huge amounts of water that must be transported to the fracking site at significant environmental cost. Secondly, the worry is that potentially carcinogenic chemicals used may escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site. Thirdly, there are worries that the fracking process can cause small earth tremors. Two small earthquakes of 1.5 and 2.2 magnitude hit the Blackpool area of the UK in 2011 following fracking.
Fracking has been shown to pollute groundwater with potentially disastrous consequences for human health.
Finally, environmental campaigners say that fracking is simply distracting energy firms and governments from investing in renewable sources of energy. Fracking is therefore encouraging continued reliance on fossil fuels.
Fracking allows drilling firms to access difficult-to-reach resources of oil and gas. In the US it has significantly boosted domestic oil production and driven down gas prices. It is estimated to have offered gas security to the US and Canada for about 100 years, and has presented an opportunity to generate electricity at half the CO2 emissions of coal.
In the UK, the industry suggests that fracking of shale gas could contribute significantly to the UK's future energy needs. A report by the Energy and Climate Change Committee in early 2015 however said shale gas in the UK may help to secure energy supplies, but may not bring down gas prices.
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