Fracking"Fracking," a now common practice to extract natural gas from the earth for energy, has both advantages and serious potential risks.
By: Ken Taschek and Amos Gewirtz, Sibley Scribe
Gas companies have been using a process called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to get natural gas out of the earth to use as an energy source. Using natural gas for energy production is a positive since it is so much cleaner and does so much less harm to the environment than oil. But some major concerns about this method of extraction have been raised.
Fracking is the use of high-pressure water, chemicals, and other materials to help extract natural gasses and other fossil fuels from non-porous minerals like shale. Fracking is also used to measure stress in the Earth. Fracking will, at the most, produce 55 MPa (megapascal, a unit of pressure commonly used in the building industry to measure crushing pressure of bricks), or 8,000 psi. Fracking is known to more safely extract natural gas then other methods, but because is takes place in suburban and urban areas rather than in isolated, uninhabited areas, it is far riskier than conventional extraction methods.
Hydraulic fracking has gained popularity in recent years, but its growth has been slowed by bans and other preventative measure. Hydraulic Fracturing is currently being used in Texas, New York, North Dakota, Colorado, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan, Maryland, nine other states, and around five other countries. Fracking has been banned in France and certain states throughout the U.S.
Fracking, critics say, undoubtedly leads to air and water pollution, due to chemical run-off and earthy materials moved during the fracking process, as well as fairly poor safety regulations. It is also thought to cause mini earthquakes or tremors in some of the regions where it is practiced. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently studying further threats of contamination in drinking water and groundwater. That’s because almost all chemicals brought up to the surface water and into the air are on the EPA’s Superfund list of hazardous waste. So far, it is believed that these chemicals contribute to nausea, headaches, nosebleeds, and muscle spasms, as well as an increased risk of a stroke, memory loss and memory deterioration. In the town small town of Dimmock, Pennsylvania, Craig Sautner recalls the effect that fracking had on his home “It was so bad sometimes that my daughter would be in the shower in the morning, and she’d have to get out of the shower and lay on the floor” because of the dizzying effect the chemicals in the water had on her.
In Minnesota, fracking takes place in several towns but has not yet reached more heavily populated areas. Many small town residents have decided to “rent” their land, for anywhere from $250-$2500 per acre. Unfortunately, those who do not allow their land to be fracked are affected by the water and air contaminates released by the practice as well. Aside from health risks, fracking is driving business from wind and other alternative energy producers in the area.
As the need for energy continues to rise, is hydraulic fracturing for gas extraction the best option? It may turn out to be, but it comes with a long list of potential problems too.