Fracking Between Rocks and Hard Places

Hydraulic Fracturing or “Fracking”

Fracking is a major environmental topic today. This article is from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), so it may be biased. However, for the most part, I think it does a good job giving an overview of what hydraulic fracturing is and highlighting the issues of it. Basically, fracking is the process of injecting water, sand, and chemicals into layers of rock deep underground, thereby “fracturing” the rock and making it possible to collect more natural gas. I found this video that does a great job illustrating the fracking process. It should be noted that this video is produced by the Marathon Oil Corporation, so it makes fracking appear 100% amazing. Although fracking was invented as a cure-all for our nation’s energy issues, it is obvious today that fracking is not as safe as once believed. The NWF article says that fracking can contaminate the water quality and supply, increase ozone and smog levels, and destroy and fragment wildlife habitats.

This video from Films For Action, Fracking Hell: The Untold Story, contains interviews with ecologists, former oil company workers, concerned citizens, and a former senior vice president of Mobil. Among other things, the video shows people lighting their “safe drinking water” on fire. A former energy industry investor addresses the fact that less than a half percent of the fracking liquid is chemical based: “That means 5,000 gallons per well are toxic chemicals. If that’s eight wells per pad site, that is 40,000 gallons of toxic chemicals.” Going back to the Marathon Oil Corp video, only 15-50% of fracturing fluid is recovered from a well after drilling. That means quite a lot of fracturing fluid is unaccounted for. At the end of the Fracking Hell video, they list the chemicals included in fracking fluid, most of which are linked to serious health problems.

The Environmental Leader released an article last week about new fracking regulations and safety standards. Some new standards will include removing diesel from the fracking fluid and more responsibility put on the companies for air and water pollution. According to the NWF article, fracking companies are “exempted from laws like the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, and they don’t have to disclose what chemicals they pump into our waterways.” This is turning into a long blog post again, but there is a lot of information out there about fracking. Most of the information is biased in some way, but it is still obvious that fracking is not 100% safe for the environment or human health. I think in the age of technology we live in, we should be able to invent a safer and more efficient way to obtain natural gases. Unfortunately, I don’t think the gas companies will resort to innovation until public demand and governmental regulations force them to.

Horizontal Drilling Rig. Wiki Commons: MeredithW

Horizontal Drilling Rig. Wiki Commons: MeredithW

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