What the frack? It’s a controversial topic, with claims of its environmental detriments and touts of its economic boons. So what is fracking?
Hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, is the process of pumping a mixture of high-pressure water and various chemicals into the ground to access shale gas that has been previously unavailable for drilling. It has allowed for huge independent energy production in the U.S., yet in other parts of the world, fracking is being fought off with staunch resistance.
France’s constitutional court banned fracking this month, and French Environment Minister Philippe Martin called it a victory for the environment.
With such adamant opposition to fracking, one has to wonder just how toxic this type of drilling can be solely for the environment’s sake.
In a report released this month by the environmental organization Environment America, it was found that in the U.S. alone, fracking produced 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater in 2012.
Fracking requires huge amounts of water, an obvious concern in places like South Africa where water is scarcer and big oil company Shell is attempting to get permits to drill, but it also has potential for contaminating nearby drinking water. The same report found that the “highly-polluting effort” contaminated water sources across the country from Pennsylvania to New Mexico with cancer-causing and radioactive materials.
In Colorado, where fracking efforts are moving closer to residential areas, groups are fighting to have moratoriums put in place to postpone fracking for at least five years, in order to allow for additional research about the potential harms posed by fracking practices.
Many European countries abhor the process and are fighting efforts from large gas companies to begin drilling.
So with all this resistance to fracking, what are the benefits?
If you’ve noticed a small drop in gas prices, thanks can be given in part to fracking — in very small part.
In the U.S., fracking is contributing to American energy independence. Although we’re not likely to reach complete energy autonomy, the U.S. is projected to potentially become the world’s largest oil producer, larger than Saudi Arabia and Russia, in part because of large-scale domestic fracking, which helps to produce more than 600 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year.
Fracking also has the potential for big money and job creation, something the economy desperately needs after the recent government shutdown. (I don’t know if anyone heard about that).
According to the website Energyfromshale.org, fracking builds local economies, provides high-paying jobs and, most of all, produces cheap domestic energy.
It’s up to us to decide what’s more important. Let’s weigh our options.
Do we prefer clean water, clean air and sustainable energy production to projected economic gains and contaminated drinking water?
Hopefully we will make the right choices for the environment and continue to develop greener options for energy, rather than relying on fracking to save us all.
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