The Impact and Controversies of Fracking
Is the Fracking Industry Meaningless?
Fracking has made the United States one of the world’s top natural gas producers, reducing dependence on foreign oil. Its development has brought economic growth to many communities. However, falling prices threaten the industry’s future.
Fracking involves injecting high-pressure liquids into a rock formation to open fissures in the rock that hold oil and natural gas. This process is also known as fraccing or hydrofracking.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of injecting water and chemicals under high pressure to fracture deep underground rock formations and allow oil and gas to flow more freely. It is one of the most significant discoveries in energy history and has helped to turn the U.S. into a self-sufficient energy powerhouse.
The fracking industry relies on water and sand to create the fracturing fluid. It also uses a small amount of chemicals, which are added to make the fracturing fluid more effective. The most commonly used chemicals are propane, acetone, and benzene.
During the fracking process, workers may be exposed to chemical spills and other potential health risks. Moreover, they are exposed to silica dust, which can cause lung diseases. In addition, fracking operations often require extensive industrial development in rural communities, which can increase noise, light, and traffic and damage local wildlife habitats. This infrastructure may also degrade local forests and farmland.
Oil and gas
Fracking has enabled oil and gas companies to unlock vast new energy reserves from tight-rock formations such as shale. It is also credited with revitalizing many rural communities, but critics point to its impact on the environment and human health.
The fracking process involves injecting a highly pressurized mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into drilled wells. This fracturing fluid, called “fracking fluid,” creates cracks in rock and allows the gas to flow to the surface. It then flows to storage tanks or pits, where it may be treated and used again.
These chemical-laced fracking fluids can enter the environment and contaminate drinking water supplies in several ways, including through spills, leaking pipes, and air pollution. They contain chemicals such as benzene, a carcinogen; petroleum distillates like kerosene and diesel fuel (which contain ethylene, tetrahydrocinnamate, toluene, xylene, and naphthalene); polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; methanol; formaldehyde; glycol ethers; and sodium hydroxide. Many of these chemicals are toxic to humans at high concentrations, while others pose a health risk even at low doses.
Fracking is a controversial process for extracting oil and natural gas from shale formations. It involves drilling a vertical well that can extend a mile or more into the earth and then turning it horizontally. A mixture of water and chemicals is then injected into the well to create fractures that increase the speed at which the liquids and gas are recovered from underground.
A major concern is that fracking can contaminate groundwater. Many wells are drilled through or near drinking water sources, and reports of polluted water are common. In addition, the chemical additives used in the fracking process are often toxic and can cause serious health problems.
Air pollution from fracking sites can also pose a threat to public health. The burning off of excess gas (called flaring), the leaking and combustion of toxic chemicals, and the operation of heavy equipment can all contribute to air pollution. In addition, the sand and other materials used in fracking may contain dangerous contaminants, such as silica.
The recent boom in natural gas production has transformed America’s energy picture, but critics fear that it also poses serious health and environmental risks. One concern is that fracking could pollute drinking water. To combat this risk, the Obama administration has recently issued new rules regulating fracking on federal lands. These rules address a loophole known as the “Halliburton Loophole,” named for the oil and gas services company that helped write the law while Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney was vice president. The new rule requires that companies disclose the chemicals used in fracking to an industry-run Web site rather than directly to the government.
In addition, fracking creates a sprawling web of infrastructure that can pollute air and water. In water-stressed regions, the use of fracking fluids can place unsustainable pressure on resources. Although natural gas burns cleaner than other fossil fuels, it still releases a significant amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Moreover, it cannot replace the need for renewable or nuclear energy.