Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fracking... Is it Really Such a Great Thing??

Hydaulic fracking is a very prominent issue that is running through the scientific, environmental and also the public conversation. What is fracking? How does is effect the inhabitants surrounding it?  Fracking is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside.  This can be seen as a wonderful solution to our dependence upon foreign oil and our CO2 emissions and new science reveals that the resources that we will be taking while using this technique will not be depleting the earth of any vital resources that it to needs to function. However, the manner in which the natural resources are being extracted is the problem.

 The science behind fracking includes the destruction of the earth’s natural shale constructs and the release of natural resources into the surrounding area along with the inorganic chemicals that are used during the fracking process. Along with this, It takes 1-8 million gallons of water to complete each fracturing job. The water brought in is mixed with sand and chemicals to create fracking fluid and approximately 40,000 gallons of chemicals are used per fracturing. During this process, methane gas and toxic chemicals leach out from the system and contaminate nearby groundwater and shockingly, methane concentrations are 17x higher in drinking-water wells near fracturing sites than in normal wells. This happens because naturally-occurring fissures and faults or the presence of a previously unregistered abandoned mine can allow highly contaminated fracking fluids, along with natural and methane gases and radioactive debris, to migrate upward and be released into aquifers serving drinking water wells. 
This site from the Ohio Environmental Council provided a fact sheet on more of the extreme cases of contamination and destruction to our natural shale and bedrock formations. Along with this, the drilling that is being down in the process of extraction is causing the underlying shale and bedrock to shift. This has been linked to the increase in the seismic activity that have been in the news recently with reports that areas in which hydraulic fracturing has taken place have seen a significant increase in the amount of earth quakes experienced.
Another effect caused by facking are the emissions that are released during the extraction process. These include hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, BTEX (benzene, tolulene, ethylbenzene and xylene), as well as methane and natural gas. These types of hazardous emissions have been linked to reproductive, respiratory, and blood disorders, as well as central nervous system and neurological effects. The pros and cons must be weighed out to determine whether fracking should be allowed and the way in which the oil and natural resources are extracted needs to be perfected before we allow fracking to continue.
Other sites for information on the dangers of hydraulic fracking include:

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