Unit 7.2 db: hydraulic fracturing

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With an increasing population and a more technological society, the global use of energy is estimated to increase.  To fulfill this energy need, natural gas is an increasingly attractive option because natural gas burns cleaner than coal, in that it releases less chemical pollutants per unit of energy created.  Hydraulic fracturing or fracking is a method that has been perfected in the last 15 years that increases the financial viability of retrieving natural gas from deep in the ground.  As with every method of fossil fuel drilling, fracking does have negative environmental effects and, therein, lays the controversy. 

Briefly, fracking involves the creation of a fracturing fluid, which is a mixture of water, lubricant chemicals, and sand, that is forced deep underground to fracture rock that holds natural gas.  During fracturing, the gas is released, moves up to the surface, and is collected.  Positives of the process include a North American source of fossil fuel, which can limit America’s need for Middle East involvement, a huge boon in jobs during an economic recession, and a cleaner burning fuel compared to coal.  Environmental concerns arising from this process include the use and pollution of large amounts of water to produce the fracturing liquid, the potential to pollute groundwater resources used for drinking water with fracturing fluid or natural gas, the need to store the wastewater fracturing fluid in deep injection wells, the inefficiencies in the process, which can release methane into the atmosphere (a worse greenhouse gas than CO2), and  causing earthquakes, because you are essentially ‘fracturing the ground’.

Read the articles below and view the pictures of the hydraulic fracturing process.  Discuss your viewpoint about hydraulic fracturing with your classmates.  How should local, state, or federal governments regulate fracking or should we?  If environmental effects are realized, who will pay to fix it or clean it up?  If we are less dependent on foreign sources of energy, is this environmental degradation worth it?  How do the immediate payoffs of job creation and an economic boon compare with the longer-term potential of polluting drinking water and increasing the occurrence of local earthquakes?  

Walsh, B. (2014 May 1) The Seismic link to fracking and earthquakes. Time.  Retrieved from http://time.com/84225/fracking-and-earthquake-link/

Begos, K. (2014, January 5). 4 states confirm water pollution from drilling.  USA Today.  Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/01/05/some-states-confirm-water-pollution-from-drilling/4328859/

USGS. (2013 April 26).  Energy Multimedia Gallery:  Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)/Unconventional Oil & gas.  Retrieved from http://energy.usgs.gov/GeneralInfo/HelpfulResources/MultimediaGallery/HydraulicFracturingGallery.aspx

Look through the Slideshow view of the Bakken, Fayetteville and Marcellus Shales, and the Permian Basin on this website

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