Fracking is a recent method of extracting natural gas and oil from the earth. Since the human world runs on all sorts of oil and gas, it is necessary that we extract these resources if we want to continue using them. But, not surprisingly, there are fracking pros and cons.
What is Fracking?
Fracking is short for ‘hydraulic fracturing.’ Fracking started as an experiment in 1947 and has been used commercially for 65 years. The process involves drilling down into the earth and blasting layers of the earth apart to access the natural gasses. First, we need to locate natural gas. This natural gas that is still in the earth’s layers is called ‘shale gas.’ Once we find the shale gas, a well must be drilled directly into the earth’s crust. Measurements will have been taken to ensure that the well is drilled directly in the area of the shale gas.
Next, the drillers pump a mixture of water, sand, and various other chemicals through the well towards the shale gas at high pressure. Then they blast the mixture at such a speed that it breaks through rock and earth layers. When the mixture breaks the rock, the natural gas escapes. The fossil fuel will rise towards the surface and be collected, processed, refined, and sold. Fracking water, known as flowback water, will also come back to the surface after the fossil fuel. Most of the time the water will be recollected and stored steel tanks for years. Since there are numerous chemicals in the water, it cannot be released back into the sea or waterways. This process creates a very divided list of fracking pros and cons, a list we hope will teach you everything you need to know.
How Does Fracking Work?
Fracking is extremely efficient and works better than previous methods. Hydraulic fracturing works so well because we can drill hundreds of feet into the earth, enabling us to reach shale gas that was otherwise beyond our grasp. Injecting the water is vital for fracking to work. Blasting the water mixture creates small fissures in the rocks. These cracks act as the drainage system for the fossil fuel to follow through. Fissures allow the gas to flow through the rock straight to the surface smoothly. The chemicals and the sand in the mixture act as anchors, holding the fissures open, and without these additives, the cracks would close very quickly trapping the shale gas. Fracking will take place along the entire length of the well, granting access to as much natural gas as possible. This method is more cost effective.
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Fracking Pros and Cons
Pros of Fracking
Numerous pros of fracking include access to access to more gas and oil, reduce surface and air toxicity, lower energy cost, keeps water safe, and create more jobs.
Access to More Gas and Oil
Thanks to fracking we can reach deep levels of the earth that no other methods could, and we now have access to more gas and oil. With fracking, we can harvest more fossil fuels for cooking, heating, and powering our cars. A few years ago scientists believed that we would run out of fossil fuel soon. Fracking has given us more time to find an alternate fuel. Since we can reach shale gas that was beyond touch a few years ago, gas and oil will be a resource available for a little longer.
Reduce Surface and Air Toxicity
Fracking takes place completely underground. The chemicals that companies blast beneath the surface would have the potential of harming people above ground, but since fracking happens under the surface of the earth, the air quality remains safe. Hydraulic fracturing supports clean air as well. Before gas and oil were a primary resource, many humans were burning coal. The air quality plummeted with the use of coal. The burning of natural gasses and oil releases less harmful particles in the air. Before, coal made up 50% of the United State’s electricity generation. Relying on gas and oil reduces the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and decreases the amount of air pollution released.
Lower Energy Cost
Much of the oil and gas that we use in America we generate from local wells. Since the resource we don’t have to ship it into the country, this results in oil and gas being cheap for locals to purchase and use. Keeping fracking in the US will also keep taxes low.
Keeps Water Safe
Since the water that gas companies blast into the rock remains far below the earth’s surface and they usually collect it, it is unlikely that well-run drilling is creating cracks that allow chemicals into the aquifers and water supplies. Drinking water and oil deposits are on very different levels of the earth. There is potential for problems on the surface which companies must be careful to maintain and manage. Companies must be careful that the first 500-1,000 feet of piping are well sealed and stable. But, this is not a problem with fracking, just insurance that the equipment is safe.
Creates More Jobs
Now that fracking has been used and tested, we can keep oil and gas harvesting in the United States. This means that we can keep jobs within the country. In 2012 the oil and gas industry employed more than 1.2 million people. Since fracking is still new to the industry, there were many bans on its use. Now that fracking is older, and we have mostly eradicated the dangers, some of the bans are being lifted. Obviously, like the ban in Maryland, that is not happening everywhere. Many expect that fracking employment will double or triple within the next few years. Hydraulic fracturing has aided in the economy as well. Fracking accounts about $385 billion in direct economic activity.
Obviously, if there are fracking pros AND cons we need to cover the cons.
Cons of Fracking
Although there are some wonderful things about fracking, there have been found to be a few negatives. These cons include less focus on renewable energy, increased droughts, dirty water, noise pollution, and the possible triggering of earthquakes, and an increase in toxin releases.
Less Focus on Renewable Energy
When scientists were finding that we might be running out of oil and gas soon, there was a huge influence to find a renewable energy. Science was finding ways for vehicles to be driven with clean energy, solar energy, wind energy, and hydro energy was beginning to take off as well. Fracking has lengthened the amount of time we have to rely on such resources. This is great in itself, but now fracking is distracting from the research of alternative and cleaner energy sources. Sadly, we have pushed finding a cleaner energy to the back burner. It is still unknown what we will do when the gas and oil sources run out. Although this might not impact the generation of today, it should still be a concern for our future generations.
Fracking requires vast amounts of water to break through the rock beneath the surface, for example, each fracturing job typically requires between 1 and 8 million gallons of water to complete. With a vast majority of the Unites States experiencing drought, this brings some bad news. This poses a problem especially when fracking is considered more important than people who need water to live. Naturally, locals began having issues with fracking in their neighborhoods when they discovered that most of the water in their towns were being used to locate gas that was not entirely needed.
Precaution is taken to ensure that drinking water remains untouched by fracking, but last April confirmed that high-volume hydraulic fracturing could contaminate drinking water. There have been many citizens across the country that have complained of fouled tap water. There have even been reports of tap water that comes out of the tap bubbly and flammable from methane increases. Wells have blown out and are completely hazardous to the environment. Since it is unknown what the companies are putting in the blast mixture, it is concerning as to what happens to those exposed to it. There have even been situations where companies have cut corners, creating unsafe sites and working environments. These cut corners lead to dangers of wells blowing out and leaking lots of chemicals and hazards into the water systems.
Along with a slight increase in water pollution, fracking has grown noise pollution quite a bit. Fracking is a very loud process and continues for extended periods of time. For people that are living close to the fracking location, the noise can become extremely annoying and even cause problems with their function. Fracking aside, the noise of the equipment and vehicles is enough to drive anyone crazy. Light pollution is also a problem. Since fracking continues, regardless of the time of day, lights will be brought in to keep the process going. These lights can be extremely annoying to those that are living close by. The combination of the noise and the light can disturb local lives and the lives of numerous animals living around the area. You can read more about the danger of noise pollution.
Since water is being used to blast rocks apart under the surface of the earth, scientists believe that fracking creates earthquakes. In general, hydraulic fracturing is still relatively new. As a result, we are still learning about the effects it creates. Research is showing a steady increase in earthquakes yearly. Between 1967 and 2000, geologists observed about 21 earthquakes of 3.0 or greater in the central United States. Since the increase in fracking, geologists have noted that number rose to 100 earthquakes annually. There were 188 in 2011 alone.
Fracturing is linked to a number of earthquakes that took place around the United States and overseas. The most well known is that of Blackpool in early 2011. Many believe that local fracking caused minor seismic events that measured 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale. Recent research is showing that seismology in Texas and Oklahoma are getting increasingly risky and unknown changes.
Increased Release of Toxins
Even though a large majority of the mixture used to blast the rocks underground is just water, there is a measure of chemical used. As of now, companies are not obligated to release what chemicals they are using. Since what companies are using is unknown, people that live close to fracking sights are unable to protect themselves from it. Scientists cannot even begin to predict what results will become of the chemicals used because the companies are the only ones that know what they are. It is even unknown as to the effects that the mixture has on the employees who are working around it every day.
What Are We Doing?
Since the risks of fracking are beginning to increase, there are a few things that people are doing to stop fracking in their areas. Everyone knows there are fracking pros and cons, but most people don’t understand how big the negative effects are. Foundations such as Earthjustice and Environment America have started bringing the dangers of fracking to the public and are asking that people stand up to fracking. The attack on fracking began in New York and had lent its influence all over the country. Foundations are asking that we write letters to our Congress expressing the concern many have about fracking and the harms it poses. There are numerous websites that discuss the importance of stopping fracking, and they suggest defending communities, protecting public lands, and opposing oils and gas infrastructure projects that drive new development. If fracking is a concern in your area, do some research as to what is being done to stop it and how you can get involved.
In the End
Fracking for natural gas and oil has opened up a whole new world of drilling. Now that we can drill hundreds of feet into the earth accessing shale gas is much easier. Fracking has given us more time to research new resources since we will be able to drill for oil and natural gas for many more years. Sadly, fracking has caused difficult living situations for those close to fracking sites. Constant noise and light pollution make living around it nearly unbearable. At the end of the day, we owe a lot to fracking, but we must remember to be careful since there is still much unknown about it.