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We Asked People How Much Money They'd Accept to Have Their Gardens Fracked

It's official: we're following in the US' footsteps and doing the whole fracking thing. But just how big a cheque would people take to let the deep drilling happen in their neighbourhood?

by Biju Belinky
08 October 2016, 6:00am

(Photo by Kate Ausburn via)

It's all systems go. This Thursday, almost a year from their initial proposal rejection, oil and gas exploration company Cuadrilla received the thumbs-up to frack away in Lancashire. Fracking – a process that uses water and chemicals shot at high velocity into the ground to break apart rock formations, releasing fossil fuels – has long been hailed by the Conservative party as a gateway to fuel independence for Britain. It's also used huge amounts of water and possibly caused earthquake tremors in some parts of the US, where it's already underway. It's kinda controversial and not officially safe.

But don't be alarmed! Even though this process might poison water and drain the earth of its already scarce resources, Theresa May has an idea. She's offering £5,000 to £20,000 to compensate for any disturbances or potential poisoning caused. Back in August, when she floated the idea, the proposed money switched from going to councils to landing directly in the waiting pockets of residents – ringing up an estimated £10 million per community affected by the giant drills.

"It's about making sure people personally benefit from economic decisions that are taken – not just councils – and putting them back in control over their lives," May said at the time. This control doesn't seem to be applicable to whether or not you would like your backyard to become a drilling ground, but let's not get into the fine print.

With the drilling in Lancashire officially going ahead, the money becomes a real question. Would £20,000 truly be enough to make us sell our souls for that sweet, sweet fossil fuel? We took to the streets to find out.

Audrey, 33, art dealer

VICE: Hey Audrey, how much money would someone have to offer you for you to be OK with the government fracking up your garden?
Audrey: I guess I'd have to think about the next best place I want to live before deciding on a price.

So you'd take the money and move?
Yeah. I guess that's a bit selfish of me to think.

According to Theresa May's plans, people in areas affected by fracking might get from £5,000 to £20,000. Is that enough?
No! I was thinking, like, a million pounds, minimum. You have to factor in the feeling that you're possibly going to have to leave your home behind. That hurts. Also, the compensation should allow you to go somewhere better, because to me it seems fracking would just destroy what you have in your backyard. It'd have to be a really attractive offer. One that allows you to get a new house anywhere you want in the world.

Siham, 20, uni student (who "could not handle a photo right now")

VICE: Hi Siham, can I ask you about fracking?
Siham: Sure! I'm not very knowledgeable about it. But I have a friend who goes to all the protests about it and stuff.

Cool. Theresa May implemented a plan that would potentially give £5,000 to £20,000 in compensation to people in areas due to be fracked. Is that enough money for you to let her do it?
No amount of money would be enough for me, really. It's so detrimental to the environment, I don't get how the money would help in any way ... especially if it's around your home as well. It doesn't sound good at all.

Carl, 47, works for a bank

VICE: Hey Carl, Theresa May's going to give money to compensate people for fracking around their area. How much would she have to give you to frack your local park?
Carl: Probably considerably more than what she's offering. I overlook a park and I've got a young 5-year-old daughter, so I'd consider the future environmental implications for her as well. Also, I've worked really hard to own a property, so to have that potentially damaged by what I regard as a not fully developed way to look at gas, and the danger that goes with it, would be an extreme concern of mine.

I don't know if there'd be enough compensation to make me be comfortable with it, to be honest with you. I'd constantly be wondering what damage it'd do, not only to me and my property but also to my community and the earth. I mean should we be looking at developing fossil fuels further? Or should we be trying to develop sustainable alternative energy sources?

Do you think your answer would've been different if you didn't have a daughter?
I think if you'd have asked me that question 13 years ago I'd probably have answered "up the money and go ahead," but now the future isn't just me, so it's bigger than that.

Tennille, 19, art student

VICE: If someone offered you money to be able to frack on your back garden, how much would it have to be for you to say OK?
Tennille: Nothing, because I wouldn't let them do it at all.

What about £5,000 to £20,000? Does that sway you?
No. I don't think it should be happening in the first place, because you can't put a price on environmental damage. Even though Theresa May might be paying that much, nothing she offers to the families can outweigh the cost of the damage fracking does.

Why do you think she's offering it?
It's easier to compensate because there's no way of dealing with the real cost. It's got to do with the way society is structured. I was reading somewhere that if we use hemp as car fuel it'd be more sustainable than using diesel and petrol – people have said over and over, "this is more sustainable", but you have these big energy and gas companies who wouldn't see a profit in it, so we end up not doing it. I think with Western capitalism we put profit over everything.

Nobody gives a shit about the environment and healthcare and education if no one's making money from it. In this country especially – we don't plan for the future! The housing crisis is happening because no one planned to expand. How is it that we managed to live on this planet for hundreds and thousands of years without fucking up the environment majorly and now it's like "oh let's fuck it up cause we're bored today and everything has to be bigger"?

Alicia, 25, works with oil and gas; Richard, 26, works at Aberdeen city council

VICE: So, how much money would you accept for Theresa May to sign off the fracking of your back garden?
Richard: Nothing. I wouldn't want it to happen. I don't feel comfortable with it – from what I've heard, it's been linked to earthquakes in America. I don't want that in my backyard or my park. My park should be an earthquake-free zone.
Alicia: Yeah, I agree.

I have to say it's interesting that you happen to work at a gas company. What's your opinion on fracking in general?
Alicia: I'm not really involved in fracking or know much about that area, but I know that it's affecting the environment. The government just passed something in Lancashire – that was a completely different proposal originally. They were going to go to the sites where the ground had already been opened up for gas, but now they've okay-ed opening completely new sites.

That's why we're asking around. Where should that money go instead?
Richard: Schools, hospitals.
Alicia: Renewable energy.

Not compensating for drilling the hell out of the ground then. Got it! Thanks, guys.

@bijubelinky

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