Fracking- Good, Bad, or In-Between?
Hydraulic fracturing – AKA “fracking” – is a practice where pressurized liquid is used to fracture solid rock, providing easier access to hydrocarbon fuel sources such as natural gas and natural gas and oil. However, fracking has proven quite controversial in many circles, with many people citing studies that claim the technique poses threats to the environment and residents living local to any such activity. Of course, the reverse is also true, with proponents of fracking stating that it is perfectly safe. But which side is right? Let’s take a closer look at the act of fracking, and what some prominent people are saying about it.
The BBC examines fracking and the opposing views playing a vicious tug-of-war over it, but first and foremost, they discuss exactly what the process entails and the benefits it has offered the general public and industry, and we will examine that aspect first before getting into the potential negative ramifications of its practice.
“Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well,” they said. “In the US it has significantly boosted domestic oil production and driven down gas prices. It is estimated to have offered gas security to the US and Canada for about 100 years, and has presented an opportunity to generate electricity at half the CO2 emissions of coal.”
State Impact, while admitting that potentially hazardous waste can be produced via fracking, noted that it can be safely and effectively treated and/or disposed of if handled properly and in a timely manner, minimizing any rick to the surrounding environment or populace.
“Wastewater from the process returns to the surface contaminated with some of those chemicals, as well as buried salts and naturally occurring radioactive material,” they said. “That wastewater needs to be treated, or buried deep in the earth using underground injection wells.”
So, fracking has diminished the United States’ reliance on foreign sources of fuel and subsequently lowered gas prices, and has provided a more environmentally sound alternative to coal in terms of electricity production. That’s good. However, opponents of fracking have sounded off about multiple environmental concerns as well, and that’s something that we will now address, citing the BBC once again.
“Fracking uses huge amounts of water, which must be transported to the fracking site, at significant environmental cost,” they said. “Environmentalists say potentially carcinogenic chemicals used may escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site. The industry suggests pollution incidents are the results of bad practice, rather than an inherently risky technique. There are also worries that the fracking process can cause small earth tremors. Campaigners say that fracking is simply distracting energy firms and governments from investing in renewable sources of energy, and encouraging continued reliance on fossil fuels.”
Environmental blog Yellow Pages Goes Green also is critical of fracking, especially when it comes to the assertion that the process leaves behind potentially harmful waste products within the earth after fracking is complete…waste products the nature of which many people are not completely aware of, due to a perceived lack of transparency on the part of natural gas and oil companies.
“Only about half of the poisonous chemical concoction that was pumped into the shale also returns to the surface when the fracking process is completed. Flowback is generally contained in steel tanks and eventually “stored” in deep oil and gas wells. The rest of the fracking fluid remains in the earth to wreak untold havoc,” they said. “The fracking fluid injected into the earth contains numerous toxic chemical contaminants that the natural gas industry feels no obligation to disclose because they consider the contents of their fracking fluids to be proprietary trade secrets.”
With the 2016 Presidential race heating up to be the most competitive – and controversial – in United States history, it’s only right to include the opinions of the two candidates – Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton – on the hot button topic of fracking. Proving that he is not a Republican in the strictest sense and ever the businessman first and foremost, Trump appears to have no inherent issues with fracking, as stated in a recent interview with 9NEWS, where he stated that regulation of the practice should be on a local, not national, level.
“Well, I’m in favor of fracking, but I think that voters should have a big say in it. I mean, there are some areas maybe that don’t want to have fracking,” he said. "“If a municipality or a state wants to ban fracking, I can understand that, but banning it is short-sighted, would financially hurt those who can least afford it, and would be detrimental to our national security.”
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, according to Politifact, has been a much more open and active supporter of fracking, but also has voiced her support of strong regulation and strict environmental controls being in place governing the practice.
“Clinton clearly supported the practice as secretary of state. Her special envoy for international energy affairs launched the Global Shale Gas Initiative encouraging other countries to explore shale as an energy source,” they said. “After Clinton left the State Department in 2013, she continued to support fracking but repeatedly called for ‘smart regulations’ in speeches. Essentially, she supports it as long as there’s environmental oversight and no local opposition.”
As you can see, there are many, many, MANY viewpoints on fracking, both positive and negative, and unlike many hot modern topics where the answer is really plain as day, in this instance fracking produces as many questions as is does answers- possibly more. All we can do is research and make the best choice for us and the planet…after all, it’s the only one we’ve got!