Modern civilisation is progressing into uncharted territory. The world’s population is higher than ever before, it is currently over 7 billion and is expected to reach 11 billion by 2100. (Carrington, 2014) This projected population growth coupled with predictions that energy demand will increase by 41% between 2012 and 2035 (BP, 2014) means that unprecedented strain is being put on the Earth’s non-renewable resources. With predictions of oil production peaking before 2030 (Miller, Sorrell 2013) and natural gas expected to run out in the 2070s (EDF, 2014) the youth of today will be in influential decision making positions when these issues come to a head. Thus their opinions at this point in time are important as these perceptions will influence future government policy.
Diminishing supplies and increasing demand is leading to the popularisation of non-traditional techniques of extracting resources. One of these techniques is hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), it has led to previously unobtainable gas and oil reserves being tapped. This is relevant as the UK government aim to increase the use of fracking in the UK. The youth’s opinion has generally been overlooked when it comes to the issue of fracking despite it having an effect on their future, this leads to the research question:
How do students at the university of Manchester perceive the use of hydraulic fracturing in the UK?
Philip Verleger has claimed that “fracking is creating the biggest change in energy in almost 100 years- a revolution” (Mann, 2013) fracking is supported by many the issue is shrouded in controversy due to the multitude of environmental problems attached to the practice. Therefore, the literature on the topic sparks much debate.
In support of fracking there is Savacool (2014) who explores the economic impact of hydraulic fracturing in the United States where it’s most developed. The findings indicate that fracking is extremely beneficial to the economy. For example in 2009 fracking in West Virginia and Pennsylvania created 57,000 jobs, $4.8 billion in Gross Regional Product and a tax collection of $1.7 billion.
Similarly, Leonardo Maugeri (2013) examined the US and world ‘fracking’ industry and supports it due to its massive potential in the US. Maugeri states that between 2007 and 2012 crude oil production in the US increased by 1,397 barrels which means that if it can carry on at this rate the US will become the world’s largest oil producer in a matter of years. Whilst Maugeri is for fracking he raises the point that the vast majority of shale oil and gas wells are in North America; 45,468 in comparison to the 3,921 in the rest of the world. Moreover, Maugeri indicates that outside of the United States fracking operations lack the specialisms needed to effectively and efficiently extract shale gas and oil. For example, only one-third of European drilling rigs are equipped to perform horizontal drilling. Thus leading to questions about the viability of the process outside of the US.
Moreover, Charles C. Mann (2013) explores how fracking has slowed down the transition to renewable energy. Mann does this via highlighting why the use of fracking is such an attractive option: “modern energy infrastructures built over decades, cannot be revamped overnight” thus a move to green energy would make much infrastructure obsolete. By using hydraulic fracturing the inevitable exhaustion of fossil fuels is prolonged. Whilst this is viable in the short term the long term sees issues with the methane leaks which can occur at fracking sites. Mann raises this environmental issue: “methane has a much greater capacity to trap solar energy than carbon dioxide does”. This view is seconded by Wigley (2011) who’s work suggests that the increased methane in the atmosphere caused by hydraulic fracturing will in fact speed up global warming.
On a different note, Boudet et al (2013) bring up…