Sources of new energy forms are currently at the forefront of environmental and economic conversation across the world. Electricity powers the smallest lamp to the largest of cities. Without it, progress on any level is unfathomable. The question then becomes how to secure a constant supply of energy after the typical agents such as coal and oil completely deplete.There needs to be a shift from nonrenewable energy to the renewable in order to combat pressing environmental issues like climate change that arise from our current method of energy production and consumption. But, because the economic gain is long term rather than short term at this particular time for renewables, many are looking to a different way of producing energy that can lead to rapid profit.
“Fracking” is term given to the natural gas extraction process of hydraulic fracturing: the forcing open of fissures in underground rocks by introducing liquid at high pressures at an attempt to extract the gas. On an economic level, the process has created a natural gas boom where increases in the extraction are being driven by the growing demand of energy and the fact that some see it as a cleaner alternative to typical fossil fuels. Increased fracturing activity is expected to generate at least $37 billion in government revenues by 2020 and $57 billion by 2035.
The process of how fracturing of the rocks is occurring is cause for concern. The liquid cocktail used at fracking sites includes acids, chemicals and poisons that are not regulated by federal laws as a result of what has been come to be known as “The Halliburton loophole.” The legislation was introduced in the 2005 Energy Policy Act and exempts hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas drilling from certain sections of the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 and the Clean Water Act of 1972. Therefore, when these unregulated chemicals seep into drinking water, there can be serious health risks to those living in the vicinity. Also, methane gas can escape into the environment out of any gas well, a substance twenty five times more powerful than CO2, which can negatively influence climate. Further, with the recent water shortage issues in areas like California, it’s difficult to imagine the large volumes of water necessary for fracking. It takes 1 to 8 million gallons of water to complete each fracturing job along with nearly 40,000 gallons of chemicals each time a well is fracked.
Across the United States and across the world, whether to frack or not has become a controversial topic. A few days ago, Governor McCrory of North Carolina signed a bill into law that will allow permits for drilling as soon as next spring. Meanwhile, over the past two years in New York, a fight between whether or not fracking should be permitted continues on with New York’s highest court to review the case. The anti-frackers include Yoko Ono among other celebrities who have produced a music video entitled “Don’t Frack My Mother” on the topic. In 2008 New York did place a moratorium on the practice that could be lifted by next year reliant on Governor Cuomo. In the same area, a rock formation known as the Marcellus Shale is a sedimentary rock buried thousands of feet beneath the earth’s surface. The shale stretches from upstate New York south through Pennsylvania to West Virginia and west to parts of Ohio and is the largest shale plate in the United States potentially capable of producing 141 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Over in the United Kingdom, Ministers including Prime Minister David Cameron stated that they are willing to overlook trespassing laws in order to allow energy companies to look for shale gas under residential houses without the consent of the owner. Environmental organization Greenpeace took to Cameron’s residence to protest the announcement by “exploring for natural gas” under his home.
Furthermore, in some countries, like Bulgaria and France there is a complete ban on fracking due to serious environmental concerns with its process. The issues with fracking can be seen in the Academy Award nominated documentary Gasland and Gasland II, which focuses on U.S communities being impacted by natural gas drilling with chronic health issues and even tap water that can be lit on fire due to chemical contamination. Health issues regarding the fracking process can be understood through a case a few years ago in Pavillion, Wyoming when the EPA informed residents that many drinking water wells were contaminated by toxics often used in hydraulic fracturing fluids. Before the announcement, for almost a decade Pavillion residents had complained about miscarriages, cancers, and central nervous system disorders including seizures. Eventually, the EPA confirmed the presence of 2-butoxyethanol, a known ingredient in fracking fluid, in three wells. According to the Food and Water Watch, there have been over 1,000 documented cases of water contamination next to regions of gas drilling as well as cases of sensory, respiratory, and neurological damage due to the consumption of the contaminated water. Overall, according to the US Department of Energy, as of 2013, at least two million oil and gas wells in the US have been hydraulically fractured and many more across the world. But the process is not sustainable and the only question that remains is how long can we put off the inevitable? Fossil fuels will run out and renewable energy will need to replace it. All we can do is hope that there’s still a chance that it’s not too late already.