Fracking: environmental enemy number one?

Despite being labeled for massive protest, argues that fracking is no worse than other fossil fuels

Image:jwigley

Energy sourcing is a prominent issue of our day. There is almost worldwide acknowledgement of the issue of climate change. However, with Trump’s plan to pull out of the Paris Agreement and more than half of the energy needs of China’s population of 1.4 billion being met by coal, the battle against global warming is as hard as ever.

Fracking has been a major point of contention for many years. On one side are the energy companies and the government looking for an easy solution to cheap sustainable power for an increasing population. On the other hand are people who seek to save the planet from catastrophe and those who do not want a derrick being built next to their house. But who is in the right?

First up, the claim that fracking causes earthquakes is not significant when put in perspective. A study by Durham University has proved that coal mining is responsible for more earthquakes than fracking. In the UK, we have only known 2 earthquakes due to fracking. Both were in 2011 and were magnitude 2 or less, a nearly unnoticeable tremor. The USA claims it has suffered quakes of magnitude greater than 5, but there is no concrete evidence that fracking was the cause. The fracking process is not the issue; instead it is the injection of waste-water back into the ground, and this is not only done by fracking companies, but by many others dealing with waste.

The second issue that comes up is that groundwater contamination. Toxic chemicals were found in drinking water in a town in Wyoming and these have been proven to come from fracking. However, the levels were not dangerous, and if practiced properly, fracking should be regulated and sealed off so that groundwater contamination does not occur. Also, ground water contamination is caused by many different forms of human activity: fertilisers, landfills, and septic tanks.

Most of the dissension is due to isolated incidents being exaggerated into common threats. Accidents happen with every form of energy production and many have harmful impacts. Whether it be an oil spill, nuclear waste, wind farms disrupting bats and birds, or the carbon footprint involved in trucks transporting items to sites; no energy form is flawless.

Of course, the most prominent argument against fracking is that it is another producer of fossil fuels. This is undeniable. Yes, putting a stop to fracking in the UK is a way of phasing out fossil fuels and phasing in renewable energies, but there are issues even with this. In the process of phasing out fossil fuels, the UK needs time to build the infrastructure to convert to renewable energy. While this is happening, fossil fuels will still be used and it would be more efficient to produce them ourselves.

Many oil rich countries are turbulent to deal with. With relations often being tense, it can be safer economically and politically for us to produce our own energy. On top of this is the fact that transporting energy from other countries burns fossil fuels in itself.

Essentially, we are in an energy conundrum which will take decades to reach the renewable future that will be kindest to planet Earth. We cannot solve this issue by battling against non-renewable energy production as it will happen as long as we have need for it. Fossil fuels are harmful to the environment, but the fracking companies are only indirectly to blame.

The real culprits are us. We need to look to our own lifestyle choices and how much energy we use in our daily lives. The aim should be to save energy and to live sustainability. If everyone did this, energy demand would decrease and we would burn less fossil fuels, at least until we convert fully to renewable energy.

3 comments

  1. Very good article, thank you. To clarify just one point – that well in Wyoming, those chemicals were injected into the zone they were found in. Yes, incredibly, since the potable water has natural gas in it, the zone was fracced to increase the gas flow & unsurprisingly the chemicals were possibly/ trace detected in the water. Most places do not use the same zone to produce hydrocarbons & potable water – definitely an odd “lifestyle choice”.

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  2. Such ignorance to gloss over things… isolated iincidences….at the same ‘new’ site …only 2 ‘since’ 2011 – when fracking was put on hold pending investigation.
    Waste ‘water’ reinjected – is not simply WATER … it’s a vast toxic blend of undisclosed chemicals used in the initial frac which at the depths they go down to helps to release other natural toxins and gasses such as cancer causing radon gas.
    No matter how well these dirty frackers encase their wells (ask yr self how often corers are cut in buisness – not just for profit but sheer negligence) even concrete will break down over time and leaching out will occur.
    Why the big wigs won’t see it is down to greed and power. Hoppin on the bandwagon for a quick buck!!
    They’ve too much invested (personally) and insufficient common sense to look at the bigger. We don’t have the same expansive area to ‘take advantage of ‘ and being so densly populated there are just so many more of us that will be closely affected by the fallout, not like in the states where there are farms bigger than Preston or Blackpool and so far fewer people on the whole are (sadly) affected.
    The ridiculous amount of money (still) being spent on getting this new industry up and running would have been far better spent invested in innovative renewable energy whilst relying on our current source rather than devastating our countryside.
    What right do we have to (kowingly) poison our land and water …it’s all of our responsibility to protect our mother earth for our offspring and future generations instead of raping her for sheer profit.

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    • Thanks for your comment.
      So the waste water here is not to do with fracking. It is surplus water made through usual oil and gas production, not fracking. Also, fracking fluid is usually just water and sand.
      There are many regulations in place in the UK, notably that fracking must be below 1000m, measures must be taken to seal off ground water, and if an earthquake greater than 0.5 magnitude occurs due to fracking, it has to be shut down.
      I was arguing that ground water contamination is much more likely from other human activities, but I accept it can occur with fracking in isolated occasions. I was raising a matter of relativity through the language I used.
      I agree with you about renewable energy being where we should invest money, but from a realistic standpoint, we need to produce energy in the mean time. I am pro anything that will reduce our country’s carbon footprint, and if that means using fracking and other non-renewable resources in moderation to avoid the excessive amount of fossil fuels being burned in order to transport energy from other countries, then I guess that has to be the solution!

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