Alan Whitehead MP

Member of Parliament for Southampton Test

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Residents right to be concerned about fracking in Hampshire?

Fracking is in the news and may be coming to Hampshire. The process involves drilling into rock and fracturing it under pressure to collect trapped gas. This uses huge quantities of water and chemicals, such as Hydrochloric Acid, during production.

Fracking is in the news and may be coming to Hampshire. The process involves drilling into rock and fracturing it under pressure to collect trapped gas. This uses huge quantities of water and chemicals, such as Hydrochloric Acid, during production.

Ministers have said that shale gas will mean cheaper energy bills for us all, but sadly this will not be the case. Although fracking might bring a small benefit to the national economy, consumers will not see cheaper bills because of it. Energy is traded on the European market and it is this market price that drives the cost. What we will see is around 18,000 wells, 164 per constituency to supply 10% of national gas demand.

Not every constituency has gas or space to drill, so counties that do, like Hampshire, will have to host substantially more wells. The wells will also be accompanied by all the requisite infrastructure, meaning busier roads and more pollution. Unlike the USA, the UK is a densely populated country, so there will be a real impact on our local landscape.

The Government is rushing into widespread fracking without considering all the implications for communities and the impact it has on resources. Nearly every year we have hosepipe bans and experience a drought. Fracking uses seven million gallons of water to flush each shale well, which will only exacerbate this problem. In the USA, where the technology has been used for a number of years, fracking has been blamed for water pollution and contamination.

We need to have a proper debate about fracking in the context of the renewable alternatives that are open to us before we charge ahead. Research I have done shows anaerobic digestion plants could provide a cheaper, greener solution to our energy security problems. Unlike shale gas wells, they do not have to be re-drilled or reinvested every seven years and they produce gas from a renewable source (cow poo).

It seems ridiculous that local communities can object to having a wind turbine or solar panels in their area, but not a fracking well pad (the size of two football pitches). We ought to think about the other alternatives before we commit to a fracking future for Hampshire.

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