Present – ‘The Tower’


Depicted on this card is an Underground Coal Gasification well.

Underground Coal Gasification (or UCG as it is known) is the most destructive out of all the extreme drilling techniques which fall under the umbrella phrase of ‘fracking’.  It entails setting fire to coal seams, often after Coal Bed Methane extraction (a process that drains coal seams of toxic water) has been pushed as far as it can go. Through controlling the amount of injected oxygen, the coal is  partially burnt. This brings previously unreachable gas to the surface. UCG pollutes groundwater on a massive scale and its carbon emissions are off the chart. Places under threat from UCG in the UK range from Swansea Bay to Warwickshire.

UCG is an extreme example, but it is shown on ‘The Tower’ card for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious meaning is the  destructive upheaval that fracking brings about. Contamination of water sources with radioactive materials, toxic chemicals and methane cannot be avoided. According to research by oil services’ company Schlumberger (of which Lord Browne is a member), around 50% of wells leak within 15 years, which poses a huge threat to local people and the surrounding landscape.

Chemical pollution from the toxic (and often carcinogenic) substances used in the process, or leached from the seams, are  at high risk of spreading into the surrounding ecosystem (of which we humans are intrinsically part). Benzene, Ethylene Glycol, Methanol, 2-Butoxyethanol & radioactive elements (e.g. Radium 226) are a few examples of what may end up leaking into the air, the land and its water supplies.

The gas produced from fracking will not significantly reduce our dependency upon foreign imports, and will increase the amount of fossil fuels being burned at a time when we need to be drastically cutting back. Neither will it alleviate fuel poverty, as the fracked gas will be floated on the European market and not sold exclusively here within the UK.

Most jobs created are temporary and outsourced to specialists brought in from abroad, while other sectors such as agriculture and tourism are likely to be harmed. These fleeting jobs also entail the industrialisation of the countryside. Fracking will bring North Sea gas production into the rural heartlands of many European countries, leaving irreparable damage in its wake for generations to come.

In other words, fracking equals destruction. But there is a subtler meaning behind ‘The Tower’, one that becomes even more emphasised by ‘The Devil’ that sits next to it. Here we move onto the second reason as to why UCG is depicted on this card. But to fully understand this, we must also now take into consideration the final card.