Did Boris Johnson actually just ban fracking?

Anti-fracking camp near Nottinghamshire, U.K. (Photo source: David Lally/Creative Commons)
Anti-fracking camp near Nottinghamshire, U.K. (Photo source: David Lally/Creative Commons)

With the United Kingdom’s general election coming up on Dec. 12, a controversial fracking “ban” may be the wedge the Conservative Party needs to win over traditional Labor voters.

Imposed in November by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, the supposed ban took effect immediately, amid rising public dismay over earthquakes that seemed to be linked to fracking.

A ban that’s not a ban

The ban was cause for celebration among environmentalists — yet just a few days later, the government said that it would consider applications for a lower-pressure type of fracking.

Fracking is a method of injecting high-pressure fluids deep underground to unlock and extract natural gas reserves.

Also called “unconventional extraction,” fracking is often opposed in local communities across the world for a plethora of reasons — including its link to earthquakes, and water pollution caused by the chemicals and acids used in the process.

Yet in the U.K., the recent fracking “ban” turned out to be a moratorium that might be removed after the Dec. 12 election.

What’s more — the moratorium has a major loophole.

It turns out that two fracking techniques are still permitted — acidization and acid fracking.

Both these methods use pressures lower than a threshold established by the government, and are thus exempt.

Playing for voters

Fracking can create jobs and lower fuel costs, which has won it supporters, despite deep opposition to the process due to concerns about groundwater contamination and chemicals, climate change, earthquakes and the general degradation of the natural environment.

It’s worth noting that the banned techniques were used in Lancashire on northern England, where the Labor Party has a stronghold.

Activists in front of a Union Jack Oil exhibit at the U.K. Investor show in London. (Photo source: Reclaim the Power)

The techniques permitted under the Conservative moratorium are employed in Surrey, in the southeast, where people tend to vote Conservative.

Despite the differing pressure levels used, both areas have suffered earth tremors.

One recent study claimed that the Surrey earthquakes were not caused by fracking, yet opponents and proponents both cite scientific evidence to support their view.

While the general public in the U.K. remains divided, the tremors in Lancashire have pushed opposition to fracking to “record highs.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose Conservative Party has a 10-point lead over Labor just one week out from the election, once described fracking as “glorious news for humanity.”

Sources: Drill or Drop?, iNews, Imperial College London, The Conversation, The Guardian, Reuters

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