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Is Hydraulic Fracturing a Real Concern?

Hostile attitudes toward hydraulic fracturing popularly referred to as fracking, have been intense, almost unanimous, among environmentalists and green movements. Europe, for instance, has witnessed significant numbers of resistance. Bulgaria and France, despite their largest reserves of natural gas, have stopped all fracking activities while activists have blocked possible drilling areas in the UK and Poland. Conversely, the US has made tremendous progress in fracking, specifically in Pennsylvania. However, it is imperative to establish whether fracking facts support these hostilities, and on this note, the essay supports the use of fracking to extract shale gas.

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Fracking involves drilling horizontal well to break apart rocks to release shale gas far below the ground. These rocks contain shale gas that can be extracted to provide energy. Earlier gas extraction practices could not effectively extract shale gas. Since 1990s, however, gas companies in the US have been able to use advanced fracking technologies to extract shale gas (Brantley and Meyendorff 1). Engineers pump high-pressure water straight into “shale layers to create fractures that release the trapped shale gas” (Brantley and Meyendorff 1). Chemicals are also used in fracking to dissolve minerals, drive sand into fractures and kill harmful bacteria.

As concerned bodies raise concerns about the safety of the environment, specifically the groundwater safety, the US government, for instance, has updated its current regulations on federal land and essentially included new ones to protect groundwater from potential negative impacts of fracking activities (New Fracking Rules Protect Groundwater on Federal Lands 1). That is, these regulations exactly strive to ensure that engineers construct wells properly by observing the quality of cement casing, installations and conducting mechanical integrity tests to ascertain possibilities of leaks.

These regulations insist on geological studies to detect possible underground fractures, naturally occurring fault lines or any other factors that could lead to leakage of chemicals into nearby aquifer or areas. Further, the new regulations require fracking operators to treat their wastes at sites in sealed steel tanks rather than in normal waste pits, which have been linked to leaks and increased pollution of aquifers (New Fracking Rules Protect Groundwater on Federal Lands 1).

The industry, however, is preoccupied by fighting these new regulations through the courts. The American Petroleum Institute, for instance, has moved to a court to stop the implementation of the new rules. In addition, the industry captains have insisted that the process will be expensive, tedious and perhaps curtail investments in fracking. The opposition of the new regulation as demonstrated by the industry investors shows fallacy in argument because the costs are not huge and not likely to exceed two percent of the cost of drilling a well (Dechert 1).

Opponents of fracking should review fracking practices at Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has been able to control potential contamination of drinking water. The water quality has been the same before and after fracking, except in few cases (Brantley and Meyendorff 1). Although small leaks of methane gas have been detected, “fixing the casing system can address these challenges” (Brantley and Meyendorff 1). Moreover, leakages may result from weak fractures, but specific casing designed for such locations could solve the problem. Pennsylvania has also addressed the issue of disposing brine. It has allowed the use of public water treatment plants to dispose brine. Nearly 90 percent of brine is recycled and used for further fracking.

The case of Pennsylvania shows that potential damages from fracking can easily be controlled through stringent regulations and technologies. These practices have led to industry standards that protect the environment and drinking water. Still, the rise in technologies seems to promise green fracking (Kiger 1). New technologies can address the identified “consequences of fracking on the environment” (Kiger 1). Shale gas is clean, can address the current challenges associated with the use of coal to generate energy and reduce greenhouse gases considerably. Still, economic impacts of fracking on job creation, falling energy prices, dependence on internal cheaper energy and expansion of industries cannot be ignored (Schulte 1).

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Extracting natural resources, including shale gas and fossil fuel has negative consequences on the environment. Pros and cons have been major areas of arguments and counterarguments, but empirical evidence should guide future fracking activities and discourses (Dechert 1).

Many opponents of this natural gas extraction technique have identified possible environmental impacts related to fracking. They argue that dangerous chemicals can seep into drinking water and cause pollution while methane gas may escape into the atmosphere. In addition, greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere also have detrimental impacts on global warming. There have also been reported cases of earthquakes attributed to fracking (Stuart 1).

Moreover, gas firms have failed to disclose some of the chemicals they use for fracking, which could be dangerous. It is believed that fracking chemical and flow-back fluids contain element endocrine disruptors. A lack of disclosure by shale gas extracting firms, however, makes the process difficult to evaluate potential adverse effects of these chemicals. Hence, the cumulative adverse impacts of these fluids remain unknown (Dechert 1).

The involvement of the police to stop activities of activists could raise further concerns in an industry known to conceal its chemical contents from the public. Fracking opponents have reported increased police presence in fracking hotspots such as Pennsylvania, Rockies and Texas (Fracking Opponents Feel Police Pressure In Some Drilling Hotspots 1).

In sum, ever since hydraulic fracturing was implemented in some parts of the world, there has been growing opposition of the shale gas extraction activities because of the perceived environmental impacts. Fracking, however, is a great method to extract shale gas. Nevertheless, it requires effective technologies and sound environmental policies to minimize potential damages to the environment. Critics should also base their concerns on empirical evidence to support their claims and avoid false assumptions.

On this note, the public, critics, industry players and policymakers among other stakeholders need better education on fracking. It is impossible to make sound policies regarding controversial issues without sound information. Transparency is essentially necessary to enhance disclosure, better reporting and to discourage false reporting and assumptions about fracking processes and outcomes.

Works Cited

Brantley, Susan and Anna Meyendorff. “The Facts on Fracking.” The New York Times. 2013. Web.

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Dechert, Sandy. “Chemicals Involved in Fracking Are a Public Health Risk.” Digital Journal: Opposing Viewpoints in Context. 2014. Web.

“Fracking Opponents Feel Police Pressure In Some Drilling Hotspots.” Weekend Edition Sunday: Opposing Viewpoints in Context. 2015. Web.

Kiger, Patrick J. “Green Fracking? 5 Technologies for Cleaner Shale Energy.” National Geographic. 2014. Web.

“New Fracking Rules Protect Groundwater on Federal Lands.” Living on Earth: Opposing Viewpoints in Context. 2015. Web.

Schulte, Bret. “Can Natural Gas Bring Back U.S. Factory Jobs?” National Geographic. 2014. Web.

Stuart, Hunter. “Ohio Fracking Operation Halted Following Area Earthquakes.” Huffington Post. 2014. Web.

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