What the Frack?!

California Oil DrillingWhat is fracking? Why all the fuss? Is it really that bad?

Fracking stands for hydraulic fracturing, which is process used to extract natural gas sealed deep beneath the Earth. Natural gas is a methane-based fossil fuel formed millions of years ago from the remains of dead plants and animals. Natural gas, similar to other fuels such as coal and petroleum, is a nonrenewable resource. Hydraulic fracturing involves sending a highly pressurized liquid deep into the Earth’s core to crack open rocks, exposing trapped natural gas for extraction. The liquid formation used to fracture the rocks is composed of water, sand, and an array of chemicals. This combination ensures the efficient release of natural gas from the rocks harboring this carbon fuel. Fracking is considered beneficial because it grants access to previously unreachable havens of fossil fuel. It allows us to power our daily lives through the heaps of electricity generated by the procedure.

However, not everyone is so giddy about fracking. Scientists are warning that the dangers of fracking may outweigh the benefits. For example, a small percentage (1-8%) of the methane fuel produced by fracking is leaked back into the environment. This only speeds up the process of the greenhouse effect, and disregards environmental sustainability. Another issue fracking invokes is its harm to water — particularly to water consumption. According to multiple reports, fracking uses 3-8 million gallons of water per well.

Water contamination and air pollution are other unintentional byproducts of the fracking process, leading to reports of negative health effects. Fracking contaminates otherwise clean drinking water, and the chemicals involved in the liquid mixture have been reported as carcinogenic. As if it couldn’t get much worse, researchers and geoscientists have also found hydraulic fracturing to be responsible for seismic earthquakes.

It appears as though the benefits of fracking don’t match up against its negative components. Fracking should be a harrowing reminder that renewable and clean energy resources such as solar and wind power are a necessary alternative as we continue to hurt the environment more and more to maintain our over-the-top energy consumption. As time goes on, we’ll learn more about this shady method of fuel extraction and hopefully mandate safe-practice laws to ensure that fracking is performed with health, safety, and the environment in mind.

Mike Salhany

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