Fracking Provides a Safe and Environmentally Friendly Energy Source

As recently as a decade ago, many scientists believed the U.S. was running out of oil. Peak oil was a major concern and many questioned whether the U.S. way of life was at risk. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking), developed more than 60 years ago, has eliminated fears of running out of oil. Although fracking was impractical and very expensive when first developed, it has become more feasible in the last few years due to technological advancements and rising oil prices over the last decade, leading to an 800% increase in shale gas production over the last decade. Fracking has led to an economic resurgence in many places across the country. And while oil and gas has to be removed correctly, using gas collected by fracking reduces greenhouse gases more than burning coal.

But that is not enough for some environmental groups who see fracking as a dangerous detour on a path to 100% renewables. The Green Party has complained that fracking squanders water. While fracking does use water, the amount of water used to drill all 3,000 Marcellus wells in Pennsylvania (and obviously not all are being drilled at the same time) equals the amount of water used by residents of Pittsburg in one year. Additionally, fracking is using the water once consumed by shuttered industries such as steel manufacturing which have been offshored or curtailed by the EPA. In fact of the 9.5 billion gallons of water used daily in Pennsylvania, natural gas consumes 1.9 million gallons or two thousandths of one percent.

Others claim natural gas is dirty. Actually natural gas is much cleaner to burn than oil or gasoline. It emits half as much carbon dioxide, less than one third the sulfur oxides and one percent as much sulfur oxide as coal. While the fracking process does release some excess methane, a good portion can be prevented by sealing condensers, pipelines and wellheads.

Fracking will not cause water wells to blow-up as in did in the movie Gasland. In the movie, the Colorado home’s well was actually drilled directly into a naturally occurring pocket of methane. The drilling occurred before any fracking in the area. Hollywood is not in the business of fact checking. As long as companies use stronger cement and processing casings to ensure an impermeable seal, the methane cannot move into anyone’s home.

Finally, some claim that fracking will lead to radioactive drinking water. While shale has a radioactive isotope, tests of treated water and brine in New York and Pennsylvania found no elevated radiation levels. The treatment of water used in fracking makes the presence of significant amounts of radiation impossible.

While fracking requires following strict protocols, the natural gas supplied has been a boon for the United States. Fracking is cleaner than oil and coal, increases energy supplies and enhances economic activity. Some of the purported claims of the anti-fracking crowd are scare tactics created by those who have an economic incentive to see fracking fail.

Comments (4)

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  1. fred says:

    If one wants to support fracking, I don’t think taking the “it’s environmentally friendly” approach is necessarily the best route. Instead, it would be useful to weigh, as many economists do, the costs and benefits.

    Your post seems to sidestep some of the largest environmental concerns and then downplay the issues that you actually mention. There is a lack of discussion on air quality, because fracking releases emissions and ozone, reducing the benefit when it comes to offsetting oil and coal as energy sources.

    You mention the depletion of water, but fail to mention it in context of regions that are actually affected by drought. In the Barnett Shale region, for example, where Texas and New Mexico are, water wells have dried up due to fracking. This has adverse effects for agriculture as the price of water has gone up and farmers have less to use.

    There are many more examples, but I think the University of Texas study sums up the issue with anyone trying to argue that fracking is not bad for the environment. The study, the only one that really denied a significant link between fracking and environmental contamination, was later shown to be fraught with inaccuracies and incomprehensive.

  2. DOF says:

    Fracking is interesting to me because unfortunately it’s become a media battle. You have celebrities and filmmakers getting on board against fracking basing their standpoint on half truths and actual lies too often, but screaming louder than those trying to debate facts.

    A perfect example is the “GasLand vs FrackNation” documentary ‘battle’. GasLand came out sensationalizing the fact that after fracking activities people could light their water on fire, and only later on was FrackNation able to prove that people have been able to do so for literally decades and that fracking has nothing to do with that.

    Except by then, GasLand’s director was holding rallies and making people chant against fracking. And Hollywood celebrities were visiting fracking sites and expressing their opinions (not based on facts, either, but rather on GasLand’s propaganda) against fracking.

    It’s informed facts – even sometimes by people cautiously exploring fracking – versus loud, media-grabbing strategies. Unfortunately, the latter always win the public’s attention in today’s world.

    • Birdman says:

      GasLand is crazy. I watched it when I knew pretty much nothing about fracking, which I suppose highlights how well that thing was marketed and stuff.

      It made me scared of fracking. Except then I read up on it. The water catching fire thing? Been happening forever. Water getting worse? Nope, every agency that did tests confirms the water is still the same, and those guys the GasLand dude interviews got mad when the EPA told them the water was actually fine.

      Then I saw FrackNation had come out, watched it and it just convinced me that the GasLand dude may have seriously contributed to screwing the US and the world out of a great way to obtain energy without ruining the environment.

  3. Birdman says:

    > Hydraulic fracturing (fracking), developed more than 60 years ago

    This is part of what’s causing the general alarmism against fracking. People think it’s a brand new thing, when it’s actually a super old, established technology that still uses the same systems and tools…Because they work!

    All claims so far about the negative impacts of fracking have been methodically and scientifically dismissed by impartial organizations, universities and other experts.

    The only claim that still needs some attention is the possibility that it may catalyze seismic activity, I think, and even then we are talking minor shakes, not the terrible earthquakes we are often led to believe by anti-fracking propagandists.

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