Both Sides of Fracking

fracking useless

5 Issues and What Everyone Ought to Know

It’s no secret that most everyone has an opinion on Hydraulic Fracturing. On the positive side, USA natural gas prices are basically as low as they’ve ever been and cleaner burning natural gas has cleaned up lots of greenhouse gas plants so that electricity is produced while reducing emissions into the environment. On the negative side, well, the list of complaints about fracking goes on and on. Let’s take a closer look.

1) Water Supplies

Anti-Fracking activists gain a lot of ground in watching surface and near surface water supplies. Those on the other side are usually correct in noting that oil and gas deposits are far deeper. The natural gas industry wants to take it on a well-by-well basis.

At the same time, it’s not just leaks of oil and gas, but serious chemicals that make fracking possible. Where are they ending up? On the anti-fracking side, the fact that chemicals are not made public or even recorded raises the ire of even allies of the natural gas industry.

Without the strong regulations in some states, most others will continue to take it on the well-by-well basis that the industry demands. We can only hope that they’ll be responsible in the hopefully rare cases where wells are affected.

2) Greenhouse Gases Right from the Start

We haven’t got to actually burning the natural gas. Fracking produces greenhouse gases right from the extraction stage. Just about any fracking operation is going to be leaking dangerous levels of methane and that methane goes straight into the environment.

On the other hand, natural gas is always 40-50 cleaner than easy and cheap coal. And the impact of methane on the environment is actually less than the effect of carbon dioxide from burning dirtier fuels – over the long run.

Again it’s up to industry to capture and hold more of that methane – and that needs to happen at every operation and not just when higher methane levels are predicted.

3) Earthquakes

There’s no question that fracking can cause increased seismic activity in almost every area where it’s been tried. There’s simply no telling what the broader consequences might eventually be and they could be devastating.

Then again, most of the earthquakes that have been definitively linked to nearby fracking activities have been mere tremors – too minor to deal with or to worry about.

The effects of fracking on local and regional seismic activities are being studied, and time will tell if the process needs to be reined in, or if some steps can be taken to minimize those effects. Still, it’s not as simple as minor earthquakes in a few locations. In some areas, Texas and Oklahoma in particular, the increase in earthquakes have reached truly staggering numbers.

4) Who’s Cleaning Up?

After about five years, any fracking operation is going to be producing just ten percent of what it produced in its first year. Every area that permits fracking is then going to have a sustained issue with abandoned, unmonitored and sometimes subsiding mining areas. Quality of life may improve thereafter, but there’s no telling what will happen to badly managed operations or oil and gas interests that disappear along with the gas.

On the other hand, none of these operations are expected to last forever. So better planning for the eventual demise of a fracking operation is in communities’ interest as well as in the industries. More frackers would do well to remember that before these communities need to remind them.

5) Cheap Natural Gas is Hindering Investment in Truly Clean Energy

This is a big one, and lots of folks, even paid oil industry lobbyists know that fossil fuels are going to face their “tobacco moment” someday. The question is, when, and how different are shorelines going to look when they do? Cleaner natural gas is not enough to replace all coal plants and most of the western United States is not really burning coal anyway. And now, it’s burning even more natural gas when it should be investing in solar and wind.

On the other hand, natural gas is indisputably cleaner than most other fuels of equal potency. Nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions are both dramatically lower than with clean energy options.

There’s no question that older energy interests are going to be involved in newer, cleaner energy. The question isn’t if, but when and how much. Whether they’re re-investing money earned from laying today’s pipelines, to work with tomorrow’s wind turbines, or exploring further and more divergent sources of clean energy, it’s still just a matter of time. No one wants to lose out on the money being made now, but the question for tomorrow is what you’ll do with the money you made today.