Fracking: Natural Gas and Environmental Protection Agency Essay

The subject that I found most interesting during the course was our discussion on Fracking. Is it ultimately beneficial to the society we live in or has it destroyed our natural environment. These are the questions that need to be answered. I will try to determine some of the aspects that might make it potentially dangerous and yet potentially highly economical and beneficial to North Americas vast resource system. What is fracking?

Well; it gets its name from “Hydraulic Fracturing,” and this is the process by which fossil fuels, usually natural gas or petroleum, are extracted from the earth. During this process, drilling from a well into hard shale rock takes place, and then that rock is cracked. This cracking releases the fossil fuels inside the shale rocks. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the cracked rocks at high pressure. Ultimately the injection forces the gas or oil to flow out of the well(CNN 2012).

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The whole process of just developing a well typically takes between 3-5 months but this investment could eventually produce natural gas or oil for the 20-40 years(Marathon Oil 2012) . Close to 87% of worldwide fracking is done in North America although the government does restrict were fracking can be done (CNN 2012). As with so many things in life, there are arguments for and against the growth of the industry in North America. On one side are those who believe that fracking produces numerous benefits which more than outweigh any potential drawbacks.

Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy states “Natural Gas is such a huge game changer and that by using natural gas America can establish independence from OPEC, it could get Americans back to work by creating jobs, it can lower our carbon emissions and it can improve the economy by not exporting over a billion dollar of oil a day to overseas countries”(60 Minutes 2011). The economic benefits have been great. After the innovation of fracking it gave way to a surge in resources, the price of natural gas plummeted from nearly $8 per thousand cubic feet to $3. 7 per thousand cubic feet. This increase in domestic production has kept prices low for American consumers who get 24 percent of their electricity from natural gas when not too long ago it was considered by some a foregone conclusion that the United States was close to running out of gas supplies. Additionally, it’s given rise to enormous economic opportunities in places like Pennsylvania, where development of the Marcellus Shale is projected to create more than 111,000 jobs which could add about $10 billion to the state’s economy (Simmons, 2011).

In addition, according to Marathon Oil; after the land that is used for fracking dries out; work begins to return the land to the way it was. All surface equipment would be removed and eventually the land can be used by the landowner for other purposes without the distinction that a well was even there. However, there are plenty of folks who are “anti” fracking. These are folks who believe that environmental concerns and other issues caused by fracking should be taken into account.

The anti-fracking group feels that fracking should be banned altogether, or at least seriously curtailed. The main reason for criticism is that it is contaminating the groundwater and getting into peoples water supply; (CNN 2012). Earlier this month the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency found that EnCana, the continent’s second largest shale gas producer, had contaminated groundwater in Pavilion, Wyoming. EnCana failed to protect both surface and groundwater by not sealing its wells correctly to prevent the seeping of methane from producing gas zones (Nikiforuk,2011).

A new high profile Environmental Protection Agency study has shaken up the powerful shale industry because it identified high levels of methane and toxic hydrocarbons in domestic waters and deep groundwater after extensive fracking of vertical wells less than 1,000 feet deep (Nikiforuk,2011). According to the Sierra Club the industry is unregulated and it has been irresponsible for them not to disclose any chemicals that are being used in fracking (60 Minutes,2011).

The reason for not disclosing the chemicals were established by the so called “Halliburton Loophole” which was created in 2005 and it completely exempted the natural gas industry and fracking technology from any regulation of the freshwater act (60 Minutes 2011). You can see how both sides of the controversy have a fair argument. With the what the economy is going and with natural resources being a major part of North America’s development and the constant struggle to find jobs, it is understandable that governments are attempting to make racking more prominent.. On the other hand, fracking does have a negative impact on our environment and could cause health issues down the road. The problem is even bigger for people who live in communities near these fracking sites, as they see not only their air being polluted, but also their everyday tap water. This disagreement between the people may not be resolved for quite some time as long as the debate continues. I think that fracking is beneficial to society ultimately because the benefits out way the risks.

The risk from fracking can be managed. Wells do not leak unless they are not properly put in place and like I said earlier the land is returned to its normal stage with no sight of the well to be seen . And while there is concerns about drinking water it remains a very limited case in very small areas. It also could end up being an important part economic growth moving forward; the economy is still in a relatively vulnerable stage, millions of people are unemployed and the fracking industry could provide a strong net benefit of jobs.

We would also reduce the risk of importing foreign oil and natural gas which could cause trade wars between nations. It’s a highly regulated industry, the government continues to monitor the situation more than many other industries; they would eventually say something if the situation got out of control. With effective regulatory oversight, continued research and strict adherence the possibilities run deep.