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Critical Thinking: The Dangers of Hydraulic fracturing

Seamus Swyers
Because of the serious risk of water contamination and atmospheric pollution, the increased
reliance on fossil fuels, and the waste of water and other resources involved with the process, Hydraulic
Fracturing should be banned by congress, and instead the US should look towards other renewable
forms of energy. Hydraulic Fracturing also known as fracking is a method of extracting natural gas
from shale deep underground that would otherwise be inaccessible. The process involves drilling a well
thousands of feet deep into the earths surface, and then pumping a mixture of water, sand, and other
chemicals into the hole at immense pressures. As this pressure builds, the shale is fractured and natural
gas is released and collected. This technique is said to have first been invented by Halliburton in 1947. In
the past ten years it has gained popularity due to new methods of horizontal drilling that make fracking
much more effective. Fracking allows companies to access large quantities of natural gas much faster
than conventional drilling, and for this reason the US government Is not regulating it because of our
current need for fossil fuels. Nadia Steinzor an organizer for Earthworks is concerned that, fracking is a
case of technology moving ahead of the science (E. Gies, fracking energy debate). Most scientists agree
that too little is known about hydraulic fracturing, and that it should not continue until we better
understand the impact that it could have on nearby communities and the environment. Early research
indicates that it isnt as safe as the drilling companies would like you to think.
The mixture that is used for fracking contains over 600 chemicals many of which are unknown to
the public because the government has allowed fracking companies to keep these chemicals a secret.
Many of the chemicals that are found in the mixture, such as Radium, Lead and mercury are known to
be carcinogenic. After the fracking process is completed, the water/chemical mixture is often put in
open waste pits where the chemicals can evaporate and lead to acid rain. In order to avoid chemicals
leaking into ground water during fossil fuel extraction, fracking companies pour a cement casing into the
drilled well. They report that cracks or leaks in these casings are rare. This isnt the case according to
former VP of Mobil oil, who is now an anti-fracking advocate. He points to studies revealing that
compromised casings (and resulting instances of water contamination) are far more common than the
industry claims, (Richard Heinberg, natural gas revolution). These chemicals, according to an article in
Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, could affect the skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, and the
respiratory and gastrointestinal systems, (Joe Hoffman, effects of Hydrofracking). The Environmental
Protection Agency and the United States geological survey have recently confirmed that hydro-fracking
has lead to contaminated water in Pavillion, Wyoming. Every fracture can involve up to 40,000 gallons of
chemicals. These chemicals can contaminate our water and soil, and pollute our air. Often only 50%-70%
of the fracking mixture is recovered. Over time chemicals left in these wells will leach into nearby
ground water and soil.
Methane pollution is another serious concern involved with fracking. Methane can escape into
ground water through cracks in the wells casing or into the atmosphere during extraction. Methane is a
greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide
(Health environmental effects). During the removal process, up to four percent of the methane gas can
escape into the atmosphere. A Study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found
the emission from fracking wells in Weld County, Colorado to be equal to the carbon emission of 1-3
million cars (Joe Hoffman, effects of Hydrofracking). Drilling releases other chemicals into the
atmosphere including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, *and+ ethyl benzene (Joe
Hoffman, effects of Hydrofracking). The Associated press recently reported that Wyoming's air quality
near rural drilling sites is worse than Los Angeles' (Joe Hoffman, effects of Hydrofracking). Congress
and President Barack Obama can no longer allow fracking to carry on completely unregulated. In order
to protect our people and environment our government must heavily regulate this industry or ban
fracking all together.
Not only does fracking present a serious risk of pollution, a huge amount of resources are
wasted in the extraction and transportation. Roughly 4 million to 6 million gallons of water is used for
one fracture (Galbraith, fears about water supply). This water is taken from nearby ground supplies, and
public water purchased by the gas companies, and in some cases wastewater is recycled that has
already been used in earlier fracking and contains chemicals as well as heavy metals that are mixed in
from the previous job. Hydro-fracking depletes other wells by using huge amounts of ground water. It
also takes water from nearby residents and agricultural industries. We live in a country with a rapidly
growing population and a limited water supply. The hydro-fracking industry uses billions of gallons of
water that should be used as drinking water or for agriculture in order to feed our growing populace.
Hydro fracking is quickly drying up wells. Congress must put an end to this misuse of Water for
commercial use.
Fracking also contributes directly and indirectly to climate change, a problem to which we
cannot afford to turn a blind eye. One oil and gas well can produce hundreds of thousands of barrels of
natural gas and crude oil per day. These fossil fuels have been flooding the market and helping the US to
be more energy independent. This is important to many people and has caused the government to
overlook the negative environmental impacts of fracking. The U.S. Energy Information Agency says that
U.S. oil imports will drop 20% by 2025 (Tim Mullaney, Energy independence). Energy independence is
crucial, but fracking is not the right path. Fracking only increases our reliance on fossil fuels and
increases climate change. The pollution that will be created from the millions of barrels of fossil fuels
now entering the market is not worth the slight decrease in gas prices that comes from a greater supply
of natural gas and oil. Finding new sources of natural gas and oil will decrease the incentive to pursue
other forms of energy. Instead of fracking, we should be turning to renewable sources of energy such as
solar, wind, and hydro power. As director of the film gasland puts it, We should be investing in
renewable energy technology that can provide America with energy as cheaply [as] and far more safely
than fracking. (Josh Fox, Ban Fracking now).
There is no denying that fracking boosts our economy and creates jobs in struggling
communities, especially in the Midwest. However, we should not be creating jobs in a fossil fuel
industry. Instead, the government needs to invest in renewable energy that can be used in the long run.
The US has to get ahead of climate change and this means becoming independent from fossil fuels and
focusing on clean energy sources. Fifty years from now if we are still burning fossil fuels as are main
source of energy it will no doubt mean disastrous consequences. Climate change poses a direct threat to
the entire planet and it is essential that we dramatically decrease our carbon emissions. Countries like
Germany have already taken the initiative and are making huge efforts to shift energy reliance away
from fossil fuels and on to renewable energy sources. As a world leader, the US should set an example,
and other nations will follow suit. Rural towns in the Midwest were hit hard by the recession and
Fracking seems like an easy solution, but there are alternative energy industries that create jobs in a
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) says that exploiting the Midwests clean energy potential would
drive billions of dollars in new business investment [and] create thousands of jobs while reducing the
regions dependence on coal and associated carbon emissions that contribute to climate change
(Midwest Economy Boost).
President Obama feels pressure from conservatives not to interfere with industries that create
jobs, because of the current economic recession. Environmental issues take a back seat to economic
ones. It doesnt have to be either or. Advancing and subsidizing renewable energy industries will create
jobs, stimulate the economy, and please liberals and Republicans. The US government needs to shift
focus from fossil fuels to clean renewable energies. Fracking increases dependence of fossil fuel and
decreases the incentive to search for alternative fuel sources. If we dont begin to decrease carbon
emissions in the present, it could be too late. The continued collecting of fossil fuels through fracking
could undermine important progress that is being made to decrease emissions.

In 2005, an energy company successfully pressured the U.S. government to
make fracking exempt from regulation (Fracking energy debate). Hydraulic fracturing is not regulated
by the Safe Drinking Water Act meaning that Fracking companies are not liable for drinking water
contamination. In 2011, researchers from Duke University found methane contaminating private
drinking-water wells near fracking operations in Pennsylvania and New York (Fracking energy debate).
Other studies have shown similar results. Most research conducted on contaminated water near
fracking wells points to the same conclusion. The closer you live to a fracking site, the more likely it is
that your water is contaminated. Currently, a movement exists to repeal frackings exemption from the
Safe Drinking Water Act. The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (FRAC ACT) has
been proposed by anti-fracking advocates and would require fracking companies to disclose all of the
chemicals used in the fracturing mixture. These dont go far enough, and only address the issue of water
contamination. The US government must put an all out ban on fracking in order to protect our
atmosphere from greenhouse emissions that stem from hydro-fracking
Hydraulic fracturing allows gas companies to access fossil fuel reserves locked deep
underground in shale deposits. It has created jobs and helped stimulate the economies of the rural
communities where it is performed. Unfortunately the economic benefits of fracking are outweighed by
the risks. Hydraulic fracking leads to pollution of air, water, and soil, wastes important natural resources,
and increases reliance on fossil fuels that lead to climate change. Fracking in the US should be banned by
Congress and President Barack Obama and instead the US should look towards clean and renewable
forms of energy.

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