Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is supposed to take care of the United States energy problems for the next generation. Many struggling farm owners in New York and Pennsylvania see it as their economic salvation. But there is a price to be paid that goes beyond the direct economic cost, in destruction of the land, in danger to the ground water and in greenhouse gas emissions.
Matt Damon stars in a new movie, “Promised Land,” which he also helped write, which makes a case against hydrofracking. It is due out in December, and should be interesting to see.
Hydraulic fracturing requires drilling a deep vertical well, then drilling a horizontal well out from the side of the vertical well, then setting of an explosive charge to fracture (frack) the underground shale. Then a mixture of water (hydro) and chemicals is pumped into the crevices in order to force out the gas. If the seal on the sides of the well is imperfect, gas and chemicals can leak into the ground water.
Even if the seals are always perfect and execution is always perfect, lots of fresh water is used, and it is not in infinite supply. Natural gas is a clean-burning fuel, but in unburned form it is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Drilling is hard on the land, and oil rigs are hard on local roads. Hydraulic fracturing has been associated with minor earthquakes. There are a lot of things that can go wrong with the process.
For now we in the United States need natural gas, and all the cheap easy-to-get gas has been used up. We may have to turn to hydrofracking eventually, unless better energy sources are developed in the meantime. Drilling companies may be in a hurry to get control of the land ahead of other drilling companies. We the poeple don’t have to be in a hurry to use up our reserves shale gas. The shale gas is not going to go away, and it’s not going to lose its value if we hold off on drilling. In fact, natural gas prices at present are extremely low and likely to go up in the future..
Click on Shakeshock Media videos for background about hydrofracking and the anti-fracking campaign. Click on Blog | No Fracking Way for Shaleshock Media’s web log.
Hat tip to Hal Bauer.
[Update] Click on Good Gas, Bad Gas for a new National Geographic article on fracking wells and Arctic methane.
[Update 12/2/12] Click on FRACKorporation for another anti-fracking blog.