Focusing on environmental issues for once......
Before I watched the documentary Gasland Part II in my AP Environmental Science class, I had never really encountered fracking, aside from occasionally hearing the term on NPR. Gasland II really influenced me. As it was designed to, the video enraged me, showing scenes of families taken advantage of by gas companies, and government officials turning a blind eye. I craved more information on the subject, since educating myself using my school’s databases would allow me to provide reliable information to others, helping me use my own personal connections to inform other American citizens in my life of the negative effects of fracking. Although this blog is a platform mainly used for fashion and style-related topics, it is a platform I use to communicate my ideas to the world, so I will discuss fracking, in hopes that my readers will learn something they did not know before. This article is modified from my research paper.
What exactly is fracking?
Fracking involves drilling a few thousand feet below Earth’s surface and injecting into sedimentary shale rock a highly pressurized fluid, a mixture mainly composed of water and sand with smaller amounts of chemicals (Pritchard). Dozens of chemicals, such as hydrochloric acid and sodium peroxide, are mixed in with the water and sand to break down the rock and release natural gas or unrefined petroleum (“What Chemicals Are Used”; Pritchard). What do drillers do with the water and chemical mixture after they use it? In the Barnett Shale in Texas, it is transported to deep disposal wells and injected into them (“F.A.Q.s”).
Why do some believe it is good?
It is thought by our government to be a cleaner energy source than others and is responsible for thirty percent of our current electricity production and for heating half of all U.S. homes (Larson 9). The Wall Street Journal reported in 2013 that the recent growth of fracking in America has brought “improving employment in some regions and a rebound in U.S.-based manufacturing,” and “greater defense against overseas turmoil that can disrupt energy supplies” (qtd. in Larson 9).
How does it harm the environment?
It accelerates climate change. This is mainly because drilling for natural gas causes copious amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that traps heat, to be released into our atmosphere. The more heat is trapped by greenhouse gases, the more our planet warms, and the more the climate changes. When we frack, an average of eighty eight percent of the methane escapes during drilling and processing, before the natural gas is even burned (McKibben 11). Fracking also harms the environment by causing earthquakes, as frack wells are often drilled very deep into the earth and this can alter natural geological processes. To reach the Barnett Shale in Texas, drillers must drill at least seven thousand feet below the surface (“F.A.Q.s”). Seven thousand feet is about six times the height of the Empire State Building in New York City. Earthquakes are not the direct result of fracking itself, but, according to the research journal Science, they are the result of the “deep disposal of fracking’s wastewater” (qtd. in Larson 11).
How is it associated with political corruption?
In many cases, because government officials and scientists who conduct research on fracking are current or past affiliates of the energy industry, their findings are altered and totally designed to make fracking attractive to the public. An example of a biased study can be found in New York state, where a major EPA review of fracking found that it had little or no threat to drinking water, but “five of the seven members on the peer review panel had current or former energy industry affiliations” (Larson 11).
How does it harm human welfare?
Because fracking often occurs in a very close proximity to people’s residential communities, it is easy to imagine how chemicals from the drilling can contaminate people’s drinking water and the air they breathe. In Texas, according to rules made by the Railroad Commission, which controls all aspects of drilling in the state, a driller must stay three hundred and thirty feet away from the property line of an owner who has not given over the right to drill on his land (“F.A.Q.s”). Causing pollution, methane can leak into local water wells surrounding drilling sites, making people’s tap water flammable. Also, another example of these health complications can be found when Colorado scientists sampled the air within a half mile radius of fracking sites and found that the people living in the area were prone to headaches, eye irritation, temporary limb paralysis, and unconsciousness (Larson 9).
Why do I, Elspeth Suber, care about fracking?
I care about fracking because I am human. I can put myself in the shoes of those families in Texas who are forced off their land and unable to sell their homes because nearby fracking operations have contaminated the water supply and the air and caused health problems. I wouldn’t want that to happen to me or to anyone I care about. I am doing my duty as an American citizen with the power to vote for politicians who support various ideas by spreading my knowledge of fracking with those in my life, so they can use their influence to help stop the spread of fracking.
"FAQs." bseec.org. BSEEC, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.
Larson, Rob. “Frackonomics. (Cover Story).” Dollars & Sense 307 (2013): 9-13. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
McKibben, Bill. “Obama’s Fracking Folly.” Mother Jones 39.6 (2014): 10-11. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
Pritchard, Joshua. "Fracking: Overview." Points Of View: Fracking (2015): 1. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.