If your goal in life is to spend a few minutes listening to a double dose of gibberish, just ask a petroleum engineer or environmental scientist for an explanation of the pros and cons of Hydraulic Fracking. Before you do that though, make a quick stop for a triple espresso shot at your closest Starbucks because you are going to need it.
Hydraulic Fracking, as we all know involves the process of injecting massive amounts of water deep in the ground under intense pressure to dislodge oil and gas deposits inside of rocks. The benefits of fracking are easy to explain. The consequences are far more difficult.
Such difficulties are why the experts qualify virtually every statement with further qualifications. Like marriage and income taxes, fracking is complicated.
First the benefits: increased supply of domestically produced energy both oil and gas. Halleluiah this means less dependence on politically volatile places like the Middle East. In turn this produces more US jobs and income and helps virtually every part of the American economy. It also reduces Russia’s role in the world energy equation. Goodie, goodie, goodie, but before declaring energy independence, there is the other side.
In the early days of fracking there was really only one major draw back: ground water contamination. The massive amounts of water required for fracking was, by the industry insistence well below the standard water table at thus the various chemicals mixed with the water during fracking poised no risk to the population. This dirty little lie turned out to be a big one.
An obscure documentary titled Gas Land, produced in 2011 and featured on 60 Minutes, showed just how big a risk actually existed. Cameras recorded homeowners taking a match and lighting fire to running tap water. The video revealed cows and other farm animals sickened after drinking the chemical infected water from the farmers well. There was methane, butane all kind of poisonous stuff and that was just the start.
Oklahoma is the fracking center of the energy universe. It has become the global leader in earthquakes. Here is a rough perspective. In 2008 Oklahoma had roundly 1000 gas wells in operation; by 2012 it was 11,000. Our guess is that by 2015 there were closer to 15,000.
As for Oklahoma earthquakes, the most recent data starts in 2010 when just 41 tremors of 3+ magnitude occurred. Fast-forward to 2015 and wham, a record 903 quakes were recorded. Is there a connection here?
You will recall that oil prices collapsed starting in 2015 and even today remains at half the previous high. This of course resulted in a drastic reduction in Oklahoma’s fracking business. By no small coincidence, 2016 quakes fell by more than one third. Again, is there a connection here?
In 2015 there were more earthquakes recorded in Oklahoma than ever before. In fact more earthquakes than in notorious quake zones in California and Alaska combined.
Since the 60 Minutes focus on Gas Land documentary, environmental scientists, engineers and about everybody else who gives a crap about the planet earth has offered their analysis and opinion. They have every right to do so even in the new normal times of Donald Trump. The one draw back is that it adds more to the confusion than necessary.
Here is a quote from one environmental scientist that illustrates what we are talking about, “While the increased gas supply reduces air pollution in US cities downwind from coal-fired power plants, we still don’t know whether methane losses from well pads and pipelines outweigh the lower carbon dioxide emissions,” And this is from the new experts. Please Doctor, just tell me if I am going to live or die!
Any solution has to start by not polluting, poisoning and otherwise killing the poor farmers and their livestock nearby to the fracking operations. That means not allowing the polluting chemicals into the food chain. Whether you love fracking or not, this is the biggest issue and public danger #1.
The only known remedy at present is water filtration techniques. Having studied this issue back in 2012, I was hopeful that an entirely new branch of the water treatment industry would respond to this opportunity. It has been years now with very little change. In my judgment, the inertia is the result of the same industry stonewalling and denial vividly depicted in Gas Land. The industry members have the power to control ground water contamination but not enough pressure is being exerted to force change. We the people must force it on them.
It is high time work with the industry to make money without poisoning the population. As for the Oklahoma earthquakes, it’s just one more reason to move to Texas.
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