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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Fracking is not the issue:

Fracking is a word that most people would not have understood a few years ago. Only those in the oil and gas industry, and those who the contentious method of fossil fuel extraction directly affected, would have had any idea what it involved. That's all changed in Taranaki now.

Hydraulic fracturing is a method of reaching oil and gas deposits, deep under the Earth's crust, by using a mix of high pressure chemicals and water to crack solid rock, and release deposits of fossil fuels.

Discussion around fracking generally gets stuck on whether this method of extraction is safe, how it effects underground water, and whether the chemicals used will be harmful to the environment around the drill site.

The problem with how this fracking debate is framed, is that it only involves talking about whether fracking, as an isolated method of oil/gas extraction, is harmful to people and the environment.

This discussion, although it needs to happen, ignores the crux of what fracking represents.

The range of debate around fracking in the mainstream media seems to avoid (purposefully?) the bigger picture.

Discussion on whether fracking is harmful to the environment or not, while ignoring the fundamental issue of fossil fuel dependence, is like discussing the merits of different methods of murder; while ignoring the victim. The methods used to reap oil and gas aren't the point. It's the fact that it is happening at all that should be scrutinised.

The way we live is dependent on fossil fuels. That is a fact. From how our food is delivered, how we get to and from work, the clothes we wear and the ways we entertain ourselves all require oil and gas in various forms.

The world is dependent on a finite resource, the gleaming treasures which we frack for. The trappings we take for granted will eventually cease to exist if we keep using our resources in an un-sustainable and reckless manner.

The arguments around fracking bring to mind the tired cliché of not being able to see the forest for the trees. It is not how we acquire the fuels we have come to rely on in the last few centuries, but why we need them, that needs to be seriously looked at.

For thousands of years human beings survived without the luxuries we, the pampered first-worlders, take for granted daily. Some would argue that humans are exploitative by nature, that we are cruel, greedy and selfish. Only time will tell.

Perhaps it is naïve to hope that the oil magnates, plastic toy manufacturers, car designers and the other industrial powers that hold sway over economies will see that what they are doing is unethical. And that thier behaviour is harmful to all of us that are alive now, and those who are yet to be born.

The discussion around fracking needs to be expanded to include a wider angle of thought. We need to consider just how much we want to be reliant on fossil fuels. For the sake of short term profits, and short term employment, we are jeopardizing our future - and we can all agree that we want a future.

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