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Hydrofracking by Alex Prud’homme

What Everyone Needs to Know®


On the 1st of April 2011 the village of Poulton-le-Fylde in Lancashire was shaken by a minor earthquake (2.3 on the Richter scale).

On the 27th of May a second, smaller tremor (1.5) was felt in Blackpool.

Blackpool and Poulton-le-Fylde have two things in common: they are both on the Fylde Peninsula and they are both close to Preese Hall, where Cuadrilla have a shale gas drilling test site – a fact that had, up until then, largely passed under the radar of most people in north-west England.

When, however, the British Geological Survey concluded that there was a very high probability that both quakes were related to Cuadrilla’s activities at Preese Hall  people across the UK – not just in Lancashire – sat up and paid attention.

Hydraulic fracturing – hydrofracking – fracking:  whatever you call it, it’s an emotive and fraught subject. The mere suggestion that a company is sniffing around looking for suitable test drilling sites in the UK is enough to activate a small army of protestors, drawn from across the social spectrum. From dyed-in-the-wool environmental activists to librarians, concerned mums and retired solicitors, the anti-fracking lobby is vociferous, determined and unusually inclusive. They claim that fracking pollutes the water, the ground and the air and that there is no  effective oversight of the industry.

On the other side of the argument are the multi-national corporations who patiently – if through gritted teeth – assure the objecting banner-wavers that there is absolutely nothing to be worried about. As they stand to make HUGE amounts of money from fracking, it’s both forgiveable and understandable that campaigners are disinclined to take their word for it.

Somewhere in the middle, of course, are the people who are both interested and concerned but before they make up their minds, want to know the facts about fracking – as opposed to the accusations that the protestors hurl at the fracking companies and the disclaimers and denials the fracking companies lob back. Finding your own way through the thicket of claim, counter-claim and hyperbole, however, is next to impossible – which is exactly what Alex Prud’homme discovered when he tried to find an unemotional and disinterested explanation of the advantages, disadvantages, dangers and rewards. He therefore decided to write one himself, and the result is Hydrofracking, from the Oxford University Press’s excellent What Everyone Needs to Know series.

Not including the Appendix, Notes, Further Reading and Index, the book is just 129 pages long and sets out, with exemplary clarity, the cases for and against.

Starting with a brief but necessary ‘Fossil Fuel Primer’ which explains exactly what coal, gas, petrol, oil, shale gas, etc are, Prud’homme moves swiftly on to what hydrofracking is and how it’s done. From there, he tackles the ‘for’ and ‘against’ and where the future might lead.

This book will not tell you what to think. The author doesn’t openly come down on one side or the other; what he does is lay the facts as he has uncovered them before you in simple layman’s terms, clarifying some of the inaccuracies, misinformation and disinformation surrounding the subject and allowing you to make up your own mind.

Fracking is hugely important subject that affects us all – and it’s far less black-and-white than most of the protagonists would have us believe. This book doesn’t take long to read and I can’t recommend strongly enough that you read it.

Oxford University Press. 2014. ISBN: 978-0-19-931125-5. 184pp.

2 comments on “Hydrofracking by Alex Prud’homme

  1. sshaver
    February 13, 2014

    But why risk it at all when there are sun and wind?

  2. Jackie
    February 13, 2014

    It’s good to know that in some places people are trying to prevent fracking. In the US, protesters are not very numerous, since we are more concerned with what Justin Bieber is doing than the oil companies.
    Just because of it’s newness, I think there is far too little known about fracking to rush into a wholesale approval of it. It’s almost like the companies doing it are trying to get as much done as possible before people realize the damage. Then of course, it will be too late.
    Along with all of the other dangers, such as poisoning ground water etc. the fact that it causes earthquakes should really should make people fear it.Earthquakes used to be thought of as acts of God. Where are our primal fears when we need them?

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