Why Fracking is a Student Issue

Chris Saltmarsh has written a piece about why we should oppose fracking in anticipation of our month of anti-fracking events at Sheffield Students’ Union. The aim of the events is to equip the student body with info about fracking because it’s something that will affect us all.

Fracking (or hydraulic fracturing if you’re being all scientific) is a relatively new way of extracting oil and gas from the ground. Put simply, it involves injecting a mixture of liquids into the ground at really high-pressure to create cracks in deep rock in the ground that the oil and gas can flow up through. The emergence of fracking as a way of exploiting fossil fuels has caused huge public debate, firstly in the US where it was trialled, and now here in the UK.

As students in Sheffield, we’re right in the middle (literally) of the fracking debate as it has been approved in a town called Ryedale in North Yorkshire. There are also planning applications to frack all around Sheffield which could be approved at any time.

Students at Sheffield are beginning to take action to oppose fracking here or anywhere else — here are 4 big reasons why!

  1. To stop climate change

First things first, we believe fracking exacerbates the climate crisis which is already bad enough. Burning the fossil fuels extracted from fracking will cause more carbon emissions and lead to more flooding, drought and extreme weather events for the most vulnerable people in the world, especially those living in the Global South, causing the forced displacement of people and worsening the crisis of refugees. We already know we need to keep 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground if our planet is to remain liveable, so as relatively privileged students studying in the UK, we have a responsibility to take action by resisting any new efforts to extract fossil fuels in our local area.

2. To defend local democracy

The decision to approve fracking in North Yorkshire is a shameless assault on local democracy as over 4600 local residents registered formal objections to the plans. This looks like a pattern that will keep repeating itself unless we fight for our right to be heard.

Just last week, the government the government gave the green light to frack at one of the sites in Lancashire — despite local people and the council saying no.

If we want a Sheffield, Yorkshire, or even UK that works for students, the wider population, and the environment, we need to make sure that local people’s voices are heard and respected at a local and national level. That means no to fracking where residents don’t want fracking, and no to Westminster Government overruling the decisions of local councils. We are connecting with local people and the campaigns they’re leading to break down the barriers between the student and local communities, and to fight together for our voices to be heard.

3. Health impacts

As well as accelerating climate change, fracking has other negative environmental effects which could also adversely affect the health of people in nearby areas. Most worryingly is the possibility that the fracking pipes will leak and cause water contamination, as has happened in the US. Although strict regulation can reduce the risk of contamination, it will always remain especially as time passes. The health of local people is more important than the profits of socially-irresponsible energy companies.

4. Community energy not corporate profits

To rub salt into the (figurative, but very real!) wounds that fracking will inflict on the local communities where it happens, as well as communities vulnerable to dramatic changes to the climate around the world, it will be huge transnational companies and conglomerates financially profiting from it all. The company with a license to frack Ryedale, Third Energy, are wholly owned by Barclays bank which has a sorry reputation of financing history’s injustices from South African Apartheid to coal mines in Colombia. As Barclays profit from the injustices perpetuated by fracking, they will be literally sucking resources from the ground in North Yorkshire as well as sucking money out of the region and into their transnational bank.

Fuel poverty is a crisis which affects millions in the UK, and leaving our energy distribution in the hands of these corporations will only worsen the problem. Energy should be placed in the hands of local communities so they can manage it democratically, cooperatively and more efficiently. This will aid the much-needed just transition to sustainable renewable energies, and give people control over their own lives and make sure nobody is left unable to afford to heat or power their home.