YP Letters: Fracking debate needs to transcend engineering aspects

Fracking protesters at Kirby Misperton.
Fracking protesters at Kirby Misperton.
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From: Alice Courvoisier, Woodbottom, Mirfield.

On the question of fracking, there is little debate to speak of. Proponents, including industry and government officials, repeat the same arguments ad nauseam, while opponents point out the accumulating evidence of the harms caused by this technology.

It isn’t clear when enough evidence will be enough. Never perhaps, for the industry will argue that the technology keeps improving; the Government will argue that regulations are gold standard; more time and resources will be devoted to further studies that are unlikely to be more conclusive.

One should also be careful with words and talk about the ‘dangers’ rather than the ‘risks’ of fracking, for risks are taken but dangers avoided. And who knows, perhaps the risks are worth it? For without people taking risks we wouldn’t have cars or planes, I have been told.

Yet I am not sure whether we are better off with either: we got rapidly used to both, but certainly air quality has deteriorated and this is a high price to pay. Of course such discourse will be branded heretical, yet I am not against technology nor innovation.

My contention is that the direction we want technological development to take should be given thought. Once a technology develops, it loses flexibility as money is invested, hardware and infrastructures are built, and social habits develop. It is therefore crucial to make sound decisions at the initial stages.

Thus the people are wise to oppose fracking and call for a open debate before its economic viability in the UK is ascertained.

However, the debate should not be an engineering debate about the ‘risks’ of fracking, which might never be settled.

It should be a political debate about the kind of society we want to live in, and how we go about building it. I believe that such a debate should be welcomed and encouraged by the government of any democratic nation.

As political theorist L Winner, whose work inspired this piece, wrote in 1986, that it is high time to tackle “a problem that has been brewing since the earliest days of the industrial revolution – whether our society can establish forms and limits for technological change, forms and limits that derive from a positively articulated idea of what society ought to be”.

From: Ross Burke, Ilkley.

ARE the anti-fracking protesters happy, after the Salisbury spy poisoning case, for Britain’s energy needs to be left at the mercy of Russia and Vladimir Putin? Do tell.