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Leading article: Fracking - not a risk that it is worth Britain taking

Drilling for shale gas in Lancashire could create as many as 5,600 jobs, according to the energy company with big plans in the area. What Cuadrilla Resources does not mention is the fears that such drilling could also poison groundwater, pollute the atmosphere and cause major ecological damage.

With energy prices rising, North Sea resources dwindling and security of supply at the top of the agenda, the prospect of 200 trillion cubic feet of new gas reserves locked in shale deposits under the Fylde Coast is an alluring one. The problem is that the gas can only be extracted using a controversial technique called "fracking", which smashes the deep shale rock with vast quantities of chemically-enhanced water, some of which may be unrecoverable and leach into the ground.

The case against fracking is impossible to ignore. In the US, where the shale gas industry is already up and running, there are allegations of heavily contaminated water from household taps bursting into flames and of increased toxin levels in the air around the drilling sites. Even in Lancashire, where drilling has barely begun, Cuadrilla's activities have already been paused once, after fracking tests were followed by two unexplained earthquakes in nearby Blackpool.

Fracking is an unconscionable gamble with potentially catastrophic results. It has already been banned in France. It should be banned in Britain as well.