Terry Murden: Fracking protestors should note that all industry is hazardous
Let’s be honest, no one wants to create an industry that threatens to kill us. So would anyone consider developing one that has the potential to inflict public health hazards and illnesses such as black lung (pneumoconiosis), congestive heart failure, cancer, osteroporosia, ataxia, renal dysfunction, chronic bronchitis and asthma attack?
Add to that the threat of global warming through emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
And there is more: the drastic alteration of the landscape which can render an area unfit for other purposes; the destruction of forests and natural wildlife habitats. What about soil erosion, flooding and dust pollution?
Few industrial issues have whipped up as much emotion as the debate over fracking. Its opponents range from green activists with a genuine concern for the environment and those who believe that those who do not die from accidental gassing or poisoned water would probably plunge to their deaths as a result of earthquakes splitting the landscape.
However, all of the above have nothing to do with fracking. They are the result of another industry that once fuelled Britain and the world: coal mining.
Those protesting against fracking, perhaps better known as members of the Campaign to Reduce Added Cheap and Known Energy Resource Supply (CRACKERS) are entitled to be concerned. The politicians are equally justified in demanding all known evidence of public dangers be brought to their attention before approving applications to engage in fracking.
But industrial development is naturally hazardous and rarely comes without damage to something or someone. That does not mean the highest standards of health and safety should be ignored, simply that the risk-reward ratio be tilted a little more in favour of risk, if the rewards are worth the effort.
Would we have an oil industry if the current hysteria over fracking were to have prevailed when Black Gold was first discovered? Or a gold mining industry? “You can’t drill in them thar hills! You could be blinded by the glint of the sun!”
Would you drill under the Channel if there was the slightest chance that someone might get a knock on the head?
Fracking clearly comes with a bit of baggage and maybe needs a bit of early rehabilitation. It’s a young industry, but some of the scare stories are little more than that. The US authorities have investigated and put in place regulations that resolve some of the early issues. Fracking is now a flourishing industry that has reduced the country’s reliance on oil.
Britain needs it. Not only because it will create thousands of jobs, but because there is no sense in shipping gas half way around the world when we can produce our own.
We have a technology sector that will spot the hazards and develop techniques that resolve them. Never have health and safety officers had such a big role to play. They will become the heroes of industry because they will tell everyone that there is nothing to worry about, so long as we all follow the rule book.