The Ethics of Fracking

2014, Environment  -  37 min Leave a Comment
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Drilling for natural gas or fracking has been going on in the United States for sixty years. New techniques called "slick-water, high-pressure, horizontal drilling" introduced in the last decade have made the extraction of natural gas cheaper but at what cost? As this industrial process encroaches on our residential and agricultural areas, negative affects to our environment and health are becoming evident yet fracking continues to move forward despite any long-term studies on the damage it may cause.

Fracking is a way of drilling into the subsurface and then accessing that material through a series of injections of a high-pressure solution that basically cracks open this rock and allows the gas to then come back up to the surface. On the one hand you have to think about the benefits you get out of tracking. You get cheaper energy and you get jobs, you get energy independence so that we're not held over a barrel by OPEC in the Middle East. All of these things have obvious benefits. Fracking is also considered as a potential "bridge energy" that will transition us perhaps from some other fuels that we're running out of, such as coal and oil.

When you talk about cons you have to include the potential for damage to the environment the fracking can do. So if you look at the process or fracking, first there is this injecting of poisonous cocktail liquids into the ground that has the danger of water pollution. Then you have the process of actually methane escaping into the atmosphere. Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas, about 24-28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Also there's a lot of water that's required to do hydraulic fracturing, several million gallons typically. That water is injected and then it will come back up to the surface. Now it comes back up with a frac-fluid but also with some other materials that had been down there - typically high dissolved solids - and that gets to be an issue of how do you dispose of these properly and not cause problems somewhere else.