Hydraulic Fracking: A Blessing or a Curse?

By Ian Teñido

fracking good or Bad
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Hydraulic fracking, what is it? It is fair to start with answering this question.  Fracking is just another term for fracturing; the term is coined from the famous “hydraulic fracturing” which simply means that rock and rock formations are fractured to allow for oil and natural gas extraction. The procedure for extraction is what delineates this technology from the traditional gas and oil extraction methodologies. This is entirely done by injecting fluid into cracks in the underneath rocks, forcing them to open up to make it easy for extraction. This technology has been around since the early 50s when the petroleum engineers actively embarked on a mission to increase well productions. The technology, consequently, turned out to be very effective because there are approximately half a million active natural gas wells in the US alone.

Every good technology, however, does not lack its demerits. The populations have been questioning the viability, safety as well as benefits of fracking. The oil prices in the US have been plummeting at the pumps and continued fracking has been predicted to destabilize gas and oil industry. The economic, social and environmental issues are primarily the ones that have saturated the “issue sphere” of hydraulic fracking. Let us delve further into these issues which comprise both pros and cons.

With the current calls from across the globe to address issues of energy crisis, an alternative that is viable is highly welcome and marketable; hydraulic fracking is one of them. While the traditional gas and oil supply is subject to highs and lows, this technology brings in a smoothing effect to ensure that there is a constant supply all through the seasons. The technology also reduces surface toxicity because unlike the other oil drilling mechanisms, it has minimal surface activities. Reduced chemicals on the surface also mean that there are reduced air quality problems as well as health hazards.

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With oil and gas being produced locally, it means that the cost of energy will be low and the general economy will be attenuated in an event of economic shake up. This technology has created many jobs for many Americans. For instance, in 2012 the oil and gas industry employed around 1.2 million people. This number has increased significantly in the present as a result of fracking.  The supply of natural gas has increased by nearly 65% accounting for over $385 billion in direct economic activity. A very significant advantage of this technology is that it gives a short term solution to energy crisis as we wait for full development of renewable sources of energy.

One of the most significant cons, which I agree to, is the huge amounts of water required for each fracturing job. To put this in perspective, in 2014 as much as 35 million gallons of freshwater were extracted from nearby aquifers to be used in a single frack well. A further unexplained worry for many is the inadequate information provided on the types of chemicals used in the fluid and thus it can be a source of water contamination.  Furthermore, the possibility of hazardous chemicals being used cannot be ruled out entirely. Fracking is also associated with earthquakes. Therefore, it cannot be vague to ask whether hydraulic fracturing is a blessing or a curse. I believe the devil/angel lies in the details above.

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Reference

Holloway, M. & Rudd, O. (2013). Fracking: The Operations and Environmental Consequences of Hydraulic Fracturing. Salem, MA: Scrivener Publishing/Wiley.

Google Image. Is Fracking Good or Bad [Image]. Retrieved fromhttps://i.ytimg.com/vi/b4uIxeoeLzY/maxresdefault.jpg.

Google Image. “There’s no evidence that fracking contaminates nearby well water!” [Image]. Retrieved from https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/62/b4/18/62b418d5713d53ec1119880620c634b5.jpg.

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