Talk in market towns and villages of Weald is now of oil, drilling wells and dreaded F-word - fracking www.dailymail.co.uk/money/comment/article-3035058/SIMON-WATKINS-Talk-market-towns-villages-Weald-oil-drilling-wells-dreaded-F-word-fracking.html
The Weald is a beautiful part of Britain. Stretching from Hampshire to Kent, it is a landscape of hills, woods and farmland. I know this very well because I am fortunate enough to live there. But the talk in the market towns and villages is now of oil, drilling wells and the dreaded F-word – fracking.
The news last week that the Weald is floating on a sea of oil has been met with many reactions. Some, including respectable geologists, are sceptical.
Many residents are nervous or angry that the peace may be shattered and the environment despoiled.
I am relaxed. Even if the claims of oil turn out to be exaggerated, we can doubtless expect a wave of fresh interest from oil explorers and even if the amount of oil that can be extracted turns out to be less than predicted, it is still likely to be very significant.
We have given this subject extensive coverage this week and make no apology for doing so (and not just because of my own address).
Oil is still a critical part of our economy and binds this country to international markets and international politics. A significant domestic resource can lead to significant change.
Nothing is likely to match the economic evolution of the North Sea, but it can be significant nonetheless.
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The hopes that fracking will not be involved in extracting oil from the Weald are forlorn. The company behind the latest find has promised it won’t frack. But it is unlikely to be the biggest or even the most significant player in Wealden oil and its boss admits that while he won’t frack, it would increase the amount of oil available to anyone who did.
So I believe the frackers are coming. I am still relaxed. Fears over the technique are overblown. With all mineral extraction techniques there are environmental issues that need to be addressed, but the scare stories regarding fracking have been exaggerated, at least as much as the promises of oil in the Home Counties.
As for modern oil well heads, they can be unobtrusive – certainly no more of an eyesore than the numerous small industrial estates that dot the countryside. I suspect that most objections to fracking are driven by a broader opposition among environmentalists to oil and gas.
But neither am I a climate change sceptic. I accept that something should be done to reduce our dependence on hydrocarbons. But it is unrealistic to believe that this country will not need oil upplies for decades to come. It is far better that they are our own.
My home is on the eastern edge of the area identified as a possible oil bonanza, but I am prepared for that to change. I am still relaxed.