The Effects of Fracking in America: Bad or Good Influence?
Fracking has been a controversial topic in the world for several years. Some people say its bad while some think it’s better for the environment than all of the other current options that we have. According to Gayathri Vaidyanathan’s “Fracking can contaminate drinking water” people of Pavilion Wyoming complained of a bad taste, as well as smell in the drinking water. The EPA launched an investigation and concluded that the ground water contained toxic chemicals that were previously nonexistent in it. It is believed that wastewater from fracking which is stored in an unlined pit in the ground leaked into the water system. There was no proof to back this claim up and the EPA promptly backed off after the first analyses. The harming of wildlife is a proven negative side effect of fracking, the animal’s habitats are destroyed, and their water sources are depleted in order to keep the fractures in the well open. If the Fracking companies really did cause this then there should be punishments. The question that I’m researching through this essay is if fracking causes water contamination, as well as if it causes more environmental pollution than the industry claims.
Big oil companies play a huge roll in our American culture. They have control over almost every industry in the world. Almost everything produced has something to do with oil, whether its power to make the items or the plastic wrapped around it. We also use oil for transportation of goods as well as for cooking our dinners. Companies and governments want the cheapest prices they can get on natural gas and oil, so some negative impacts are overlooked and ignored. According to Gayathri Vaidyanathan’s “Fracking can contaminate drinking water”. Natural gas is seen as a sort of bridge fuel that will eventually help the world convert over to renewable non harmful energy. Shale fuels stay in the atmosphere for a significantly less time compared to CO2 emissions from other fuels. Eventually we will have windmill farms in the ocean that power whole cities, and maybe solar panels on top of all buildings to try and cut down electricity use. In the meantime, we require an efficient way to have electricity to power our everyday lives and fracking fills that void. Fracking is a process by which more natural gas can be extracted from the ground. When rigs frack, they drill deep into the ground then drill sideways for a good distance, they then fill the well with explosives that make big cracks within the earth. Natural gas seeps out of these cracks because they are a path of least resistance. In order to keep these cracks open, they have to pump the well with high pressure fracking fluid that is around ninety percent water “Marc Lallanilla, Facts about fracking”. The rest of the formula for fracking fluid is a highly gaurded secret, this hinders the investigations into water contamination. Labs are unable to see fracking chemicals in water so they can’t confirm if water was polluted by fracking or another source according to “Gayathri Vaidyanathan”. America has one of the largest shale reserves in the world. “Hydraulic Fracturing and its impact on water resources” The Briny water that has been underground for long periods of time rises to the surface after continued use of the well. This water contains naturally occurring radioactive elements and needs to be disposed of properly. This is where mistakes can be made that lead to ground water pollution. If disposal wells are dug too deep or have a crack that leads to the aquifer, this can pollute our water systems and harm animals. In some place’s wildlife pays the price when habitat is destroyed. Elsewhere the damage occurs when water is sucked away or polluted. Still other species can’t take the traffic, noise and dust that accompany extraction operations, (Tara Lohan). Animals are a very overlooked topic when it comes to fracking. Water pollution and other issues generally take the front line while animals are left on the back burner. When roads are built to get to these wells, thousands of trips are made by huge trucks transporting different things. This in itself causes noise pollution which scares animals and wildlife away. These roads bring many trucks and vehicles that kill wildlife crossing them, trucks with eighty thousand pounds behind them can’t stop on a dime. Research has shown that Endangered animal populations declined at a 15% higher rate near fracking zones than anywhere else, (Tara Lohan). Wildlife needs to be a top priority to the big oil companies, it’s not fair for us to take over their homes and kill the wildlife populations for a little bit of oil. The footprint for one well is around 30 acres which destroys the habit of hundreds of species. Endangered animals within these fracking areas are ignored so their populations continue to dwindle.
The EPA claimed that Fracking does not lead to widespread drinking water pollution, but they did finally confirm that groundwater has been polluted along points of the fracking water cycle according to the article “Hydraulic Fracturing and its impact on water resources”. The EPA admitting that fracking causes some pollution is a big step towards a cleaner environment. A fracking boom has occurred in the united states in the past couple of years due to rising oil prices and shortages on imports. In 2010 there were almost 510,000 wells located within the U.S, and according to “Marc Lallanilla, Facts about fracking” that number almost doubled in 10 years. Many opponents of fracking say that the industry’s success has made all of the negative effects be overlooked, including air pollution, groundwater contamination, and health problems. In support of their claims a fracking well in Bradford county malfunctioned in April and spewed thousands of gallons of fracking water for hours “Hydraulic Fracturing and its impact on water resources”. Company’s get away with these water pollution events by claiming their formula is intellectual property so no contamination events can be traced back to a specific well. As the researchers concluded in their paper: “Our finding of significantly higher levels of barium and strontium also suggests the possibility of surface water contamination by any of the hundreds of chemicals that may be used in hydraulic fracturing, including friction reducers, acids, biocides, corrosion and scale inhibitors, pH adjusting agents and surfactants”,(We are just starting to learn how fracking effects wildlife).Our country runs on oil-based products, so its partially all of our faults for supporting this industry. However, I do not believe that all fracking is bad. I think that companies that are responsible enough to not make a mess and actually care about the environment should be permitted to continue fracking. Companies that are irresponsible and don’t have all the proper safety precautions to prevent contamination events should not be allowed to frack within the U.S border. Since natural gas is cleaner than crude oil, I think we should increase the number of natural gas wells and decrease the number of crude oil wells. Legal settlements and nondisclosure agreements usually prevent instances of pollution from being available, this was reported by “The New York Times”. Methane is a pollutant of shale gas that goes into our atmosphere when used as fuel. While in our atmosphere methane traps in heat at 84 times the rate of CO2, (David Roberts). Methane however has a very short life span in our atmosphere while CO2 takes around Twelve years to be removed. More of it can build up in the atmosphere which ends up causing more heat to stay within our atmosphere. Shale is one of the main things recovered from fracking, we have huge reserves here in the U.S so fracking helps us curb our dependency on foreign countries.
In Addition to water contamination, Fracking could also be causing unprecedented seismic activity. In Oklahoma were there has previously been almost no seismic activity, it was reported to be as prone to an earthquake as California “Marc Lallanilla, Facts about fracking”. When the land is cracked it leaves opening that are propped open by sand particles, over time the land compresses back to what it originally was causing tremors and earthquakes “Marc Lallanilla, Facts about fracking”. If scientists could figure out a way to fill these voids after they are done fracking the well, it would significantly decrease the seismic activity. When fracking opens up fissures under the ground, the earth shifts to try and close the cracks. This shifting causes earthquakes that destroy buildings and companies. Fracking should be done in uninhabited areas in order to minimize damage caused by it. Although Fracking has been shown to have negative benefits, a new study has shown that the benefits far outweigh the risks. According to “Seth Whitehead, fracking 10 Years Later”, the most inaccurate claim that has been made is that Fracking leads to more severe climate change and global warming. This statement was refuted by an intergovernmental panel on climate change. They actually found that fracking has been a huge factor in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the united states. This was made possible by a large price reduction in natural gas due to fracking. Natural gas releases significantly less greenhouse gasses into the environment. By using it as a replacement for coal and crude oil it has helped to reduce overall emissions. Fracking does have some issues though regarding wastewater. The wastewater is often pumped into holding ponds where it can leak and settle into surrounding groundwater and impact wildlife. The contamination of groundwater is of major concern for those who live near drilling operations and rely on drinking water wells. And the contamination of watersheds that provide drinking water for millions of people in cities hundreds of miles away from any natural gas drilling sites poses a significant threat as well, (Hydraulic Fracturing and its impact on water sources). This is a big problem, but not all fracking rigs do this. The problem lies with the careless people wanting a cheaper way to do things. The government should have more oversight regarding fracking, but they shouldn’t completely shut it down it brings in too much benefit. The article “Seth Whitehead, fracking 10 Years Later” refutes the earlier claims that Fracking causes water pollution. The article says that over a dozen reports have been released that show there is no evidence linking fracking to water pollution. The article “Hydraulic Fracturing for oil and gas” explains why there isn’t any evidence linking fracking to water pollution. There are non-disclosure agreements and legality issues regarding the Fracking fluid formulas, therefore there is not much solid evidence linking fracking to water pollution. Fracking for oil instead of natural gas is bad for the environment, the methane output is significantly higher, but its still lower than traditional methods. In a different study “IPAA, Fracking” more than 25 scientific, peer reviewed studies and expert assessments have concluded that Fracking is not a major threat to groundwater. A study by Pennsylvania State University showed that an area heavily developed for shale gas with 1400 new gas wells has not gotten any worse contamination over time. The water purity actually increased over the course of the study. There is lots of conflicting evidence regarding Fracking and whether it is a negative of positive thing. I think with the mounds of evidence lined up in favor of fracking having no negative benefits shows that people try and push blame for their problems in life on new popular things. The Obama administration put a tight leash on oil companies regarding Fracking. The door to Fracking was shut to any small to medium size companies, the only people that have the available funds are massive companies with lots of resources. Spills or intentional dumping of wastewater or fracking fluid released 180 million gallons into the environment between 2009 and 2014, according to an investigation by the Associated Press. Unsafe levels of some contaminants have been found to persist for years, as was the case in North Dakota, (Tara Lohan). Since these companies doing this fracking have a huge budget, the proper steps should always be taken to stop unnecessary pollution. There needs to be severe consequences so that no company cuts corners to save money.
I think that fracking is a good thing for the U.S, it helps our economy and reduces overall Greenhouse gas output. There are many studies that are not backed up by facts, only opinions of those who would like to see the oil field fail. Big words and big machinery scare people, so fracking should not be eliminated from our country. However, I do think that we should do significantly more research into where all of the excess waste is going and how it is affecting the surrounding ecosystems. It is a big problem that we do not know what chemicals these big oil companies are using while fracking. These mystery chemicals are most likely chemicals that aren’t being tested for in the ground water supply. Hopefully we don’t discover in the near future that fracking really was bad by people getting strange cancers due to water contamination. Benzene, for example, is a known carcinogen, according to the American Cancer Society. In 2012, researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health released a study showing that air pollution caused by fracking could contribute to immediate and long-term health problems for people living near fracking sites. Research by over 150 studies suggests that chemicals released during natural gas extraction may harm human reproduction and development, (Facts about fracking). Anti-Fracking groups have tried to say that fracking causes a lot of environmental pollution, but experts disagree. “A 2014 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment found that fracking is an “important reason for reduction of [greenhouse gas] emissions in the United States. Increased natural gas use, made possible by fracking and the resulting low prices, is the primary reason the United States has reduced carbon emissions by 13 percent since 2008, more than any other nation in the world so far this century on a raw tonnage basis”, (Fracking, 10 Years later: its benefits far outweigh its risks).
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