Robert SansomWell not quite.  I’ve lived in beautiful Sussex all my life and as a keen cyclist, cycled most of it.  One of my favourite routes takes me from my home town of Hove and passes through the quiet sleepy village of Balcombe.

Nothing much happens in Balcombe.  It has two or three pubs, a cricket team and not much else.  But that was until fracking came to Balcombe and to my bemusement the village started to hit the headlines.

So, what do I know about fracking.  Well other than what I’ve seen on the TV or read in the papers, not much.  I can understand the environmental concerns associated with the extraction process but presumably these can be addressed to a greater or lesser extent, although I doubt whether it’ll be acceptable to all.

I have no idea what impact it’ll have on prices.  Presumably it must have some downward pressure but it would seem to me that unless huge volumes are produced the effect is unlikely to be very much. With regard to energy security then as an indigenous source of energy there must be some benefit but I have no idea how much.

However, I am fairly certain that whether we frack or not, it will have little, if any, impact on our carbon emissions as we already have enough fossil fuel resources to fry the planet to a crisp.

When are we going to understand that carbon emissions primarily occur due to consumption and that production generally has a secondary impact.  It is hugely frustrating to me that we continue to be so “supply focussed”, with the demand side often added as an afterthought, even amongst those that should know better.

Let me give you another example. Earlier this summer when the headlines announced “Power cuts in 2 years warns regulator”, the solution given is to build more generation capacity and not how can we manage demand to avoid power cuts.  When demand reductions are mentioned it is in terms of doom ladened scenarios with industry “forced” or “bribed” to close and with this disaster blamed firmly on EU diktats which are “forcing coal fired power stations to shut down”.

We don’t seem to be able to change the mind-set which always looks to the supply side for answers rather than considering the demand side of the equation.  The problem with this mind-set is that it is easy for us to vilify others without fear of recrimination and not take any responsibility for our own actions.  But all of us are consumers and can do something about our consumption.  We need to stop being so useless and use less.

Robert Sansom is a Researcher at Imperial College London funded by the UK Energy Research Centre.

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