Fracking is controversial, environmentally damaging and heavily criticized by environmentalists, but our government thinks it’s worth it. Today our English lessons listening topic is a conversation about starting up fracking in the UK to help us source natural gas, which we are desperate for.
The government is trying to promote fracking to
reduce our dependency on foreign gas and to create jobs, but many people are against the practice because they believe it is harmful to the environment.
Fracking is hydraulic fracturing. It’s a procedure to extract natural gas trapped in dense rock formations. Fracking is a controversial gas extraction process that involves injecting water and chemicals into layers of rock. Fracking may cause environmental problems like a higher chance of earthquakes and water contamination.
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- Fracking: A way to get gas from deep in the ground. It uses water, sand, and chemicals to break rocks and release the gas.
- Promote: To help something become more popular or successful.
- Dependency: When you rely or need something or someone a lot.
- Controversial: Something that many people disagree on or have different opinions about.
- Criticized: When someone says what they think is bad or wrong about something or someone.
- Hydraulic: Something that uses water or other liquids under pressure to make machines work or move.
Hi there. Today let's talk about some news in the UK. We have a new Prime Minister, Liz Trust is now in charge and it's been a bit of a rocky ride so far. And one of the new Prime minister's more controversial policies - she's 'given the green light', the go ahead once again for 'fracking'. That's F R A C K I N G. What's fracking? Well, it's something that may be coming soon in your country too. Many people see 'fracking' as an environmental disaster. But also something that we may be pushed towards because of the energy crisis, because of the current fuel crisis.
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So let's have a look at this controversial idea today. What's 'fracking'? What's going on with 'fracking'? And what is the English vocabulary that you need in order to understand this subject?
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So vocabulary first, 'fracking'. That's a noun and it's one of those nouns that has been made from a verb. Here, the verb 'to frack', F R A C K. So in grammar, that's called a 'gerund', if you're interested, a noun made from a verb - so 'fracking'.
And 'fracking' itself is a composite word from 'hydraulic fracturing'. That's the proper name for it.
What does it mean? Well, The definition given in the BBC article in the attached link:- 'It involves drilling into the earth and directing a high pressure mixture of water, sand, and chemicals at a rock layer in order to release the gas inside'. 'Gas', G A S. That's what we want. That's the bit that is the fuel that we need to use to heat our homes potentially or for our industries.
So basically 'fracking' means 'making deep holes into the earth through the rock layer, and then directing water, sand, and other chemicals into this layer to flush out any tiny bits of gas and capture it'. And apparently there are vast natural gas reserves that could be collected this way. They're in the ground and they can be tapped, and it's gas that can't be mined in any other way.
So it's only as technology has arrived at fracking, that mining this gas has become possible. So fracking is a possibility in many areas of the world. Many areas which have so far been untouched by heavy industry or by the drilling for oil or gas. So 'to drill', D R I L L, that means when you 'make a hole in something very hard' - here the ground.
So this environmental concern - it's not existed in the areas where fracking is likely to be done because there's been no mining of natural resources in these places before. But that environmental concern is coming
In more detail, they drill down vertically, so this is vertical. They go straight down into the ground and then they turn it and drill horizontally. So they drill like that underneath the ground in that horizontal direction. And the horizontal drilling can go for miles and miles and miles. And what they do, any tiny pockets of gas, in tiny fractures, (that means little break points in the rock called 'fissures', F I S S U R E S), any tiny particles of gas can be flushed out because once they've drilled, they then push water through the drill hole. So water and sand are pumped in. 'Sand', S A N D - that's what you find on a beach. The water widens the fissures, widens the cracks in the rock and the sand lodges in those fissures and keeps them open, so it permanently changes the shape of the rock. And the water pushes the tiny particles of gas through so that it collects and the gas is pushed back up to the surface of the earth so that it can be collected.
So one of the great negatives associated with fracking - they could be coming to do it near to where you live, even though there's no history of heavy industry there. There are many sites, for instance, in the UK which could potentially be used for fracking, that are areas of outstanding natural beauty, or certainly locations which are rural, which are countryside, where there's no heavy industry. So heavy industry is going to be introduced into areas of our countryside, which probably we should be protecting instead.
Another negative - earth tremors. It's been proved that fracking causes mini earthquakes. How stable are the rocks? What are the implications of these mini earthquakes?
What about landowners? Are they going to be forced to sell off their land to the drilling companies? And where you're drilling horizontally for many miles, that's many landowners. Do they have any say in the process if you're drilling underneath their land? The word 'landowner', L A N D O W N E R. That just means 'the person who owns the land'. So a lot of landowners, probably farmers will be affected by this new policy.
What chemicals are being pumped into the water? Are they dangerous? And will they find themselves in our water supply? In the water that we use for drinking for our animals, for our crops?
Are these chemicals carcinogenic? That means cancer causing. I doubt they're going to be the sort of chemicals that we would find in our kitchen store cupboard.
And how much water are they going to use? Apparently fracking uses millions of gallons of fresh water. And they talk of draining natural reserves like rivers, lakes, and ponds to use the water for fracking. What's going to be the environmental impact if rivers, lakes, and ponds are drained? What's the effect on wildlife? Where's the replacement water going to come from?
And over time, how can we know that this polluted water, this dirty water from the fracking process doesn't again mix with our clean water? How do we know that? I'm not sure that we can know that.
What stops it from mixing with the water in our natural environment? Water that trees and grass use? These guarantees cannot be given, I don't think. Or by the time we know the answers, it'll be too late. The fracking companies and their shareholders will be long gone from the scene.
What happens to the waste water afterwards? It can't be put back into the lakes, ponds and rivers. It's polluted. Where does it go?
They say that the water where the drilling takes place and the water that we use for our drinking water are 'at different levels', 'different depths in the earth'. That's the argument that says it's okay. But I say, What about in a hundred years time? Can you still guarantee that these two different types of water will be kept separate then?
That's not so easily answered.
How much of the gas generated leaks into the air? Will people who live nearby fracking sites be affected? Will their health be impacted? It will take many years for these unknowns to be known.
One of the arguments sometimes made for fracking is that this fuel, this gas generated, gives 'a cleaner burn'. It doesn't generate as much CO2 as, say, burning coal. That may be true, but fracking will prolong the period of time where we're still dependent on fossil fuels. Ultimately, we need to get away from fossil fuels and widespread fracking will further delay this.
The other main argument and why it's again, being included in Liz Truss's policies in the Conservative government's policies - it may help solve the fuel crisis.
Again, this may be true, but how much should we trust the reassurances given by the fracking companies, companies like Cuadrilla, who were the ones drilling previously in the UK? How much can you trust the data of companies with vested commercial interests? Companies who are going to make money out of something? I think it would be naive not to be a little suspicious of what they tell us.
Another argument - against? One of the websites I found that was discussing fracking, talked about it as 'burning the furniture to heat the house'. That's an interesting phrase. I like that! It's hard not to think of something like fracking as being 'short-termist'. It only looks at the short-term need. It doesn't look at the long-term implication and 'burning the furniture to heat the house' is a good expression for summing that up.
The basic fact is we have to find other means of heating our homes. We have to get away from fossil fuels. And by fracking, we're giving future generations potentially pollution problems and health problems that we don't yet understand. I like the concept of us being 'stewards' of our environment, 'stewards' of our planet. That's S T E W A R D S. That's quite an old-fashioned word, but it means 'a caretaker, someone tasked with taking care of something, preserving it for future generations'.
We are 'stewards' of our planet. And I think if we do something like fracking, we're not being very good 'stewards of the Earth' for future generations. We're doing it with short-term aims in mind, and we're not thinking about the longer implications. We can't be, we don't know what they are!
A hand painted picture of the earth with a message help me. The English lesson today is about Fracking. Despite its dangers, the government is going to implement it.
What do you think? Is fracking happening in your country? Do you support it or are you against it, or are you unaware of it? Let us know. We're always interested to hear from our listeners and to hear your opinions.
I hope that's given you some good English vocabulary to enable you to enter the debate on fracking. As usual, listen to this podcast a number of times until you understand all of it, and the words and the phrases become automatic, 'second nature' for you.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
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