Fracking or hydraulic fracturing is a process in which water along with various chemicals is pumped into the ground, causing the rocks to release contained natural gas. This process allows access to resources that were unobtainable before, thus potentially staving the energy crisis. With this new method for extraction, natural gas has become more widely used and is being regarded as the cheapest and safest energy source for the environment.
But even with that well-earned reputation, there is a lot of controversy in regards to the way it is obtained. Namely, fracking is a big cause of water contamination, making the water in the areas where natural gas is being extracted highly dangerous for drinking. It creates dangerous fires as well.
Long before fracking was used, natural gas was extracted as a byproduct of oil drilling. Natural gas was only used as a secondary fuel, one that was meant to be used as an auxiliary measure until more environmentally friendly options like wind and solar energy became more widely spread. However, greed and ignorance led it to become the go-to energy source, far from its previously intended use. In 2005 Congress passed the Energy Act that excluded hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act, effectively deeming it safe to the environment. This act could have been forced so that the US would not rely on foreign energy sources, but be that as it may, it’s only a temporary one. Skip to today, the government has now recognized the issues associated with fracking and are creating new laws to help regulate the process. However, besides some initiatives, there are no clear federal regulations in place and the state regulators are found handling the issues only at a local level.
There is also a significant study being conducted right now by the EPA on the effects of fracking on groundwater. While this study won’t be finished for a couple more years, it will play a major role in natural gas regulations, and hopefully bring about a reduction, if not complete abolition of the contamination, one way or another.
Worth the Risk?
It cannot be disputed that hydraulic fracturing is an effective way to release and collect natural gas from, otherwise, unreachable places deep underground, but we must ask ourselves, are the consequences worth it? The process has been refined to drills even up to a couple of miles deep and find resources easily. While natural gas may seem like the solution for independence from foreign energy resources, but is it the best way? Natural gas doesn’t seem so cheap when you weigh in the long term environmental effects from obtaining it. Fact is, the process isn’t refined enough at this stage, and its implementation was obviously rushed by the government out of fear from the dissipating oil reserves. Methane escapes into the water and air contributing to global warming, drinking water becomes poisoned and makes people sick. If all of this isn’t enough of a reason to invest some time and money into further exploring both wind and solar power, then I don’t know what is.