By Fiona Harvey / The Guardian
The biggest meeting on the issue of fracking for shale gas to be held in the UK will take place in Manchester on Saturday in an attempt to set up a broad nationwide coalition to stop the controversial practice.
Protest groups have been set up in areas currently affected by shale gas exploration activities or likely to be the sites of fracking in future.
But anti-fracking campaigners want to step up the pace of their protests as support for shale gas grows rapidly in some political circles.
The concerns over fracking follow its widespread use in the US over the last few years. Environmentalists say it has caused contamination of water supplies, gas leaks and the despoliation of the countryside over wide areas.
They want to ensure that similarly destructive practices do not take hold in the UK. Green groups also fear that an over-emphasis on gas will put carbon-cutting targets far out of reach – some research even suggests that shale gas from fracking produces more greenhouse gas emissions than coal when burned – and will crowd out investment in renewable forms of energy.
But Cuadrilla, the only UK company currently engaged in fracking, argues that the bad examples of the US would not apply in the UK, where the industry is more tightly regulated.
The company has invited people to its site and says its equipment and methods are of a higher standard than those that have caused problems in the US.
All fracking operations for shale gas in the UK are currently suspended, pending scientific evaluation of two small earthquakes in the Blackpool area last year that, according to a report from European seismic experts, were directly linked to fracking operations in the area.
Read more from The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/mar/16/protesters-coalition-against-fracking