Fracking is another term used for hydraulic fracturing, a procedure where rocks and rock formations are fractured to allow oil and gas to flow out. This is done by injecting fluid into cracks to force them to open further, making it easier to extract oil and gas. It has been around since the late 1940s when petroleum engineers were looking for other ways to increase well productions. It turned out to be very effective considering that there are more than 500,000 active natural gas wells in the U.S. Alone.
But with oil prices plummeting, continued fracking can shake the oil and gas industry and the entire economy. Too much supply with very low demand is clearly an imbalance that can have an adverse effect on everyone involved. What is surprising, however, is that bans on fracking are being lifted in various areas in the Americas. Just recently, Republican governor in Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, has just signed into law a bill that prohibits a ban on fracking in towns and cities in Oklahoma. This enabled the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to retain control over oil and gas drilling. So now, localities are prohibited from debating or deciding whether or not oil and gas operations will be permitted within their jurisdiction. It is only when “reasonable restrictions”, such as noise and traffic concerns, apply that exceptions will be made.
If fracking was previously banned and remains prohibited in other areas, there must be something wrong with the process. From an environmental standpoint, it is definitely damaging, considering that shale rocks are forcibly cracked to extract oil and gas. Even if the product is natural gas, there are risks and dangers involved.
List of Pros of Fracking
1. Access to Alternative Source of Fuel.
The overwhelming supply of oil and gas may seem a negative aspect today, but there will come a time when these resources become scarce again. Through fracking whatever shortage the world will experience will be resolved. Continuous study into the effects of hydraulic fracturing will also lead to more innovative and safer ideas of extracting natural gas. When both traditional oil drilling and fracturing work hand in hand, fuel shortage could be completely avoided.
Because fracking can be done within local jurisdictions, it will also decrease a city or country’s dependency on foreign oil. Since the need for oil is likely to rise as population increases, it pays to have an alternative and domestic source in mind. Time will come when daily oil exports across America will be lessened.
2. Reduce Surface Toxicity.
Fracking basically uses huge amounts of water, sand and chemicals that are blasted deep into underground rock formations to crack them open. With the chemicals injected deep under the earth, they would cause lesser to no damage, as opposed to when they are released on the surface or in the air. They are less likely to pollute bodies of water, ensuring that humans stay safe and healthy.
Chemicals out of the way also mean improved air quality. Whatever toxins that would normally have been released into the air would no longer pose a threat. Moreover, when natural gas is used to generate electricity, there would be less dependency on coal and nuclear power plants. This can result in reduced carbon dioxide emissions that will also lead to a decrease in air pollution.
3. Lower Energy Cost.
With oil and gas produced locally, industries that greatly rely on these fuel resources can become more competitive due to lower energy cost. This is why many believed that fracking has positively transformed the energy situation in the U.S. This can also result in lower taxes, especially when exporting oil is minimized.
4. More Jobs.
In 2012, the oil and gas industry in America employed more than 1.2 million people, which further increased due to fracking. The figures will soon double or triple considering that bans on fracking are now being lifted. So fracking not only increased the supply of natural gas by 65%, but the rate of employment as well. Moreover, it has made a positive impact on the economy, since it accounts for about $385 billion in direct economic activity, as reported in a Nature piece in 2012.
5. Buys More Time.
Until renewable energy is fully developed and made accessible to everyone, fracking will buy the world some time to turn such a plan into a reality. As what John Podesta said, former chief of staff to President Clinton and former head of the Center for American Progress, it can serve “as a bridge fuel to a 21st century energy economy that relies on efficiency, renewable sources, and low-carbon fossil fuels”.
List of Cons of Fracking
1. Requires Huge Amounts of Water.
Each fracturing job would require 1 to 8 million gallons of water to complete. With much of the United States currently experiencing drought, this can mean bad news, especially when fracking is given more importance than the people who need the life-giving water. In a 2014 report, as much as 35 million gallons of freshwater were removed from nearby aquifers in Michigan to be used in just one frack well. It would not be long before fresh water sources are depleted and rivers and streams dry up.
2. Possible Water Contamination.
Apart from possible water shortage, hydraulic fracturing is also linked to water pollution. Pro-fracking may say that there is no proof of such occurrence, but this is only because areas suspected of contamination were not thoroughly investigated. The Natural Resource Defense Council, however, were able to provide a list of incidents of water pollution that are caused by fracking, prompting the council to support the federal regulation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
3. May Trigger Earthquakes.
Processes of fracturing have been linked to several earthquakes in the U.S. and overseas, one of which is in Blackpool. In a report, private company Cuadrilla Resources admitted that two “seismic events” that occurred in Blackpool in early 2011, may have been caused by fracking. “It is highly probable that the hydraulic fracturing of Cuadrilla’s Preese Hall-1 well did trigger a number of minor seismic events”. These measured 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale, respectively.
4. Possible Use of Hazardous Chemicals.
The mixture used in fracking often includes additives of biocide, polymeric lubricant, surfactant, and stabilizer. But because companies are not required to disclose any information about the chemicals they use, they have the freedom to change the ingredients. This is especially true because they are exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act of 2005.