America has found a wonderful yet disturbing alternative to our reliance on foreign oil, in hydraulic fracturing more commonly referred to as "fracking." Due to the fracking boom, over the last decade U.S. oil production has increased by roughly 50%, as domestic oil production has risen, the United States has began to import less oil for the first time in thirty years. Over the last 10 years U.S. consumption of imported oil fell 15% from roughly 65% to 45% of our overall total oil consumption. According to the Department of Energy (DOE)," in 2013 at least two million oil and gas wells in the United States have been hydraulically fractured, and that of new wells being drilled, up to 95% are hydraulically fractured. The output from these wells makes up 43% of the oil production and 67% of the natural gas production in the United States." Domestic fracking has created hundreds of thousands of jobs at a time when unemployment is high, fracking is driving down the cost of natural gas, and fracking is decreasing our dependence on foreign oil. All 3 of these points are absolutely wonderful so really what is the fracking problem? As great as fracking sounds there are quite a few environmental, cultural, and legal concerns regarding the fracking of the United States, that need to be addressed. Exactly what is fracking? Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" is drilling usually horizontally into shale formations. Then a mixture of water, sand, and  at least 50 chemicals is highly pressurized and forced through the rock. The sand, and some times ceramic pieces in the mixture, hold open the fractures in the rock allowing the natural gas to be forced or pushed out by the pressurized water mixture. The natural gas is then pumped out of the well. 

See Diagram below:

The primary concern is how safe is this method of drilling? As the diagram depicts the drilling goes beneath the water table, meaning any leak can go directly into the drinking water of the local residents. This is just my opinion but, I don't think that any of the firms involved in fracking could honestly guarantee that none of the chemicals used in the fracking solution couldn't contaminate the water, just by being introduced into the environment. Water contamination in a different context is also an issue. According to "Based on approximately 1,500 horizontal wells fracked in 2011, Pennsylvania used about 12-20 million gallons of water per day for Marcellus Shale drilling, which represents approximately .5-.8% of the 9.5 billion gallons of water the state uses daily." Most of this water is not recycled instead it is dumped into open air pits. Water is a naturally occurring element that can not be created. If we destroy our water it is gone forever. Potable drinking water makes up a very small fraction of all water on Earth. Even though 70 percent of the world is covered by water, only 2.5 percent of it is fresh drinking water. The rest is saline. And of that 2.5 percent, just 1 percent of our freshwater is easily accessible, with most of it trapped in glaciers and snow fields. The amount of water used in hydraulic fracking is too high to not recycle the water. That recycled water could be used again for fracking. Which would be a responsible practice considering that many areas where fracking is taking place now have water shortages. Many drillers cite that the cost of recycling is too expensive. OKOGA president Chad Warmington said, "underground wastewater disposal is currently the safest and most cost-effective way to dispose of produced water." How does the Earth's physical structure actually respond to the additional pressure being forced into cavities and destroying under ground rock formations? The fracking solution and the brine left behind are both forced under the Earth's surface. Oklahoma has a large number of disposal wells and suffered a massive Earthquake in November 2011, since then Earthquakes in Oklahoma have increased 5000%. Research is currently being conducted to determine if the disposal wells had a role in the massive Earthquake. Profit margins are high, and the various firms involved in the fracking process seem to be above the law. Fracking companies are being granted eminent domain in Iowa against property owners who do not want the pipe line running through their land. The pipeline proposed to run through Iowa connects with the controversial North Dakota Access Pipeline (NODAPL). The NODAPL is supposed to supply 470,000 barrels of oil from the oil fields in North Dakota to Iowa. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe members fear the catastrophe they would have to live in, in the event that the NODAPL were to break. They are also concerned about the destruction of ancestral non reservation lands. The Sioux do not believe that the historical significance to their culture has been considered, with the NODAPL being a 3.7 billion dollar project I agree with them. While fracking appears to be an economic quick fix the long-term damage to our environment and the American people might not be worth the oil...




*dual blogged to my personal blog