Cuadrilla is the only major fracking company operating in the UK, although others, including Total, are lining up with rapacious intensity in anticipation of the vast fortunes to be made from this controversial industry.
Numerous investment companies have also launched campaigns to seduce British investors into staking a claim in this 21st-century version of the American gold rush.
Part of Cuadrilla’s PR strategy is to offer bland reassurances to people that they will suffer only minimal disruption. However, it has already been censured by the advertising watchdog for claiming that it uses only “proven, safe technologies”.
Regulation of the industry may be more stringent in Britain than it is in the US, but there are too many potential safety issues for these to be lightly dismissed by fracking companies and their uncritical supporters.
It was good to hear, therefore, that the Scottish Government has apparently no plans to allow fracking in Scotland at present (your report, 14 January).
If I were to allow my inner cynic to voice an opinion, of course, I suspect that it would mention the upcoming referendum, and the well-documented opposition to fracking on both sides of the Border.
More worryingly for those living near fracking sites, the UK government has recently announced that it intends to change the law to allow gas companies to put in fracking applications without notifying people by letter about the possibility that drilling could take place beneath their properties.
Nick Boles, the planning minister, has said that the companies would be required only to publish a notice of intent in a local newspaper and to post information about potential sites in local parishes.
The government’s rationale for this is that it would be too much of a burden on gas companies for them to have to inform the “disproportionately large number of individuals and businesses” living and working within the wide radius of drilling.
Since the procedure involves lateral drilling deep below the earth’s surface, across vast areas of land, the companies themselves, by their own admission, will not know exactly where they are drilling – they are literally working in the dark.