A fracking disaster or a load of hot air?

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With the chancellor’s Autumn Statement confirming plans that some say will make the UK tax regime for shale gas the most competitive in Europe, the spotlight is again on this hotly debated and fiercely disputed topic. Hydrochloric fracturing, or fracking, is the process by which shale gas is extracted from the ground by drilling bore holes into the Earth’s crust and pumping a cocktail of chemicals and water into them under high pressure.

To the pro-fracking camp, it is one step short of the answer to all our energy woes; it will provide much needed employment, lower carbon dioxide emissions and reduce dependence on foreign energy supplies. In the US, fracking, it is claimed, has revamped the energy market and helped to bring the country out of recession. To those in the anti-lobby, and as recent reports show there are many of them, fracking is an environmental disaster, an earthquake-causing, chemical-leaking, water-poisoning fiasco and a costly distraction from research into renewable fuels and green energy. The Petroleum Act 1998 states that all natural gas in Great Britain belongs to the Crown. However, this does not include the land above or surrounding any gas reserves. So where does that leave a land owner sitting on shale gas? …

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