As you may have seen in the news recently there has been a bit of an uproar about a method of attaining energy, this being something called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking” the method of which is basically pumping high pressured water and sand underground to extract the gas from beneath the earth that would otherwise require a great deal of digging and environmental damage on its own.
Now, this process has been around for a long while, both in the UK and parts of Europe, but finding its feet in the US where it steadily developed traction with vast areas of the States being available to test and develop the process, steadily over more than a decade this has helped develop US reserves quietly to a point where the Obama administration took the world by storm by declaring a race for complete energy independence estimated to occur by 2030-2035 (not far off eh?) last year the States managed to produce just over 80% of the energy it consumed, creating over 480,000 jobs (being forced to call in expertise from abroad with a severe shortage in petro-chemical and drilling experienced engineers). Now it could have realistically produced more energy than that, but you gotta make a buck somewhere and China is always a good bet.
Sounds great, so what's the problem?
Supporters of the process declare it a breakthrough, clean and cheap with little overt effect on the environment; those in opposition to it say it is potentially hazardous and bad for the environment as well as jobs for communities and profit shares with local communities.
Anti-frackers across the globe (currently most vocal in UK) use the platform to garner the most attention, declaring it dangerous to the environment, provoking fears of earthquakes up and down the midlands as well as the potential damage to the countryside that is as much a part of the UK as the City itself.
This all puts me in mind of an article on the BBC regarding a "what if" scenario with the cliffs of Dover. Would we allow it to be mined if we found gold within its earthworks, for a million pounds? Not likely. A billion? That would get people's attention and would create a countrywide debate. A trillion pounds sterling? Well that's an interesting proposition that I’m sure would see more than a few people change sides.
In 10 years with the current progress of hydraulic fracturing it could be worth more than £1.1 billion, not enough to dig us out of debt, but not a sum to sniff your nose at.
This takes us to the several decade old argument of whether we should even be focussing on fossil fuels now, surely this is a sign? We're going further and further underground for that precious black poison.
People are missing the point. We, as a species, need energy. As much as we would all love to return to the forests and live out a simple life it just isn't a possibility.
So what’s the answer?
France says it has the solution – nuclear fusion.
Nuclear fusion is the process of an atomic nucleus "fusing" together with another atomic nucleus to form a new type of atom (remember Spiderman 2 and the scientist who had eight metal arms and was trying to create a world with sustainable and unlimited energy?) Well basically that, minus the explosions and super villainy.
The pro's of this are cleaner, safer, and cheaper with France leading the charge on the energy race to sustainability costing more than $20billion being funded by numerous governments across the globe to evolve this technology to be made a real and viable option.
Now the age old alternative to all of this is something even more sustainable. Solar Energy.
Sounds easy, right? You'd think so, and be forgiven for thinking it.
You may remember the European Union being in the papers relatively recently on how they were threatening sanctions on those wily Chinese who were selling their solar panels for less money than their cost in the EU.
We all cheered for free trade as an agreement came about wherein China would inflate the cost of its solar panels and, if it failed to do so, the EU would inflate them itself.
Yay for free trade and fairness, right? Well folks there has to be some give and take. China was fabricating solar panels that were so cheap that they were, in fact, affordable to most people in the western world and the growing middle classes of the developing world, granting the clean, non-invasive energy to everyone willing and able.
How do we fix the problem? Luckily I'm not the guy who has to have all the answers, but a nice bit of sunbathing always gives me a bit of time to think.