Hydraulic Fracturing Essay
Thousands of feet below the Earth’s surface, flows vast reservoirs of one of our planets most sought after commodities. In ancient Babylon there are writings of a dark elixir oozing from the lands surface, even then the people understood how precious this material was. Oil, along with Natural gas, are exceptionally rich sources of energy. A gallon of oil surpasses the output of five kg of coal, ten kg of wood, and over fifty times the amount of energy that fifty humans can produce. The richest oil can actually provide one hundred more times the energy, than the resources used to extract it from the ground. Currently the US is entering one of the largest modern oil booms the world has ever seen. Unfortunately unlike in ancient Babylon, oil today does not simply ooze out of the ground and into our cars. New advances in science and visualization technology have given us a process known as hydraulic fracturing. Also known as horizontal drilling, or fracking, these new techniques have caused a great controversy and sparked a public debate over the potential risks “fracking” could ensue on our environment. Despite the negative pictures environmental lobbyists have painted, hydraulic fracturing is essential for the future of America’s economy. Its main purpose is to create jobs, a stable market, and advance the future of clean energy in the United States.
Currently, there has been a focused attention on the negative environmental impacts fracking could potentially carry with it especially in the water supply. There are hundreds of on-going investigations taking place to ensure the protection of the environment as well the health of citizens who currently populate near sites that are using a horizontal drilling method. Most of the negative impacts on the environment, associated with fracking, are poorly understood by the general public. The water supply has been one of the main concerns voiced by lobbyists and various media outlets. Currently the United States government has issued extensive research on the matter through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has focused much of its attention on the sustainability of the water supply and soil surrounding current and former drilling sites. The EPA recently released on their main website a statement confirming the following: The EPA currently is working closely with industry partners to identify locations and develop research activities for prospective case studies.
In prospective case studies, research at the site begins before hydraulic fracturing occurs, and then continues during and after hydraulic fracturing activities. The studies to date have shown no correlation to contaminated water supplies before or after the process of hydraulic fracturing. According to the New York Times, “Shale gas is accessed at depths of thousands of feet while drinking water is extracted from depths of only hundreds of feet. Nowhere in the state have fracking compounds injected at depth been shown to contaminate drinking water.” It is important to understand the process at which the gas is extracted to understand where the areas of risk occur. “Each well contains multiple layers of steel casing and cementing to effectively protect groundwater.” (API 1) This is essential to the protection of our water supply. It is important to understand the access large oil companies have to advanced equipment and the most brilliant minds. Each year billions of dollars are spent on research towards the extraction and containment of natural gas as well how to dampen the carbon footprint left after drilling.
Many natural gas operators have chosen to disclose the ingredients of their cocktails to the website FracFocus.org, it is operated by the Groundwater Protection Council. This website includes a public record that can be examined by drill site or well location, individuals can effortlessly view the components used to fracture detailed wells. “As of early 2012, nearly one hundred companies have already provided information about approximately ten thousand wells and that number increases every day.” (API) Companies in our modern society understand the importance of transparency. Access to websites and detailed logs have given the public the ability to make their own judgments on the safety of individual operators. This makes large and independent companies held to higher standards than ever before. While there are greenhouse gases released during the extraction process they are significantly less than our current coal-fired plants. “Shale gas emits half the carbon dioxide per unit of energy as does coal, and coal burning also emits metals such as mercury into the atmosphere that eventually settle back into our soils and waters.” (New York Times) This is of great importance to understand especially as one of the oldest and largest coal-fired plant operates in west Texas.
Advocacy groups such as the Sierra Club are fighting to shut down these highly destructive plants. “Coal and gas-fired power plants emit more than 2.3 billion metric tons per year of carbon pollution, approximately 40% of total U.S. energy-related carbon pollution.”(SierraClub.Org) Because of intense restrictions any emissions from oil and gas wells must stay within agreed state and federal restrictions to guarantee the health and well-being of residents. “Natural gas is considered a clean burning fuel because of its comparatively low emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur oxides, and nitrogen oxides.”(API 1) According to the Environmental Protection Agency, natural gas-fired electricity generates half the carbon dioxide of coal-fired production. As a country we have gained a dependency on energy and as we grow new techniques will have to be discovered to maintain our consumption rate. Hydraulic Fracturing brings us closer to clean energy while having an instantaneous benefit to our atmosphere and environment by making dangerous coal-fired plants obsolete. The oil and natural gas industry resources are considerably valuable to the United States ‘economy as one of the country’s major employers and buyers of imports.
Maintaining its growth through a struggling economy, America’s oil and natural gas operators carry on to deliver well-paying employment, returns to administrations and share growth for millions of Americans. “With increased access to U.S. oil and gas resources we can create 1 million new jobs in the next ten years alone.”(Green 1) That means if the nation could regulate the practice of fracking, while protecting the environment, it in return would create one million American jobs. That would not only raise our unemployment rate exponentially, but would insert millions of tax dollars back into the economy for improved infrastructure or education. “Expansion of oil and natural gas shale assets sustained more than 2.1 million jobs in 2012.”(API 1) Affordable, native natural gas is vital to refreshing the chemical, manufacturing, and steel industries. These great industries have supported our nation in the past and will continue into the future. The American Chemistry Council determined: A 25 percent increase in the supply of ethane (the liquid derived from shale gas) could add over 400,000 jobs across the economy, provide over $4.4 billion annually in federal, state, and local tax revenue, and spur $16.2 billion in capital investment by the chemical industry That added boost to the job market is a gift long overdue to our struggling economy.
Similarly, the National Association of Manufacturers estimated that high recovery of shale gas and lower natural gas prices will help U.S. manufacturers employ 1,000,000 workers by 2025. This will directly stimulate small town communities by offering technical job positions with life-long benefits. As well the added income will help to slowly relieve the burden of debt many families are suffering from. An IHS report, America’s New Energy Future: The Unconventional Oil and Gas Revolution and the US Economy, estimates that: “Mainly due to lower energy prices, average disposable income per household increased by more than $1,200 in 2012.”(IHS 4) This has continuously been omitted from the main stream media. Numerous industry sponsored reports are connecting gushing oil and natural gas production brought on by fracking is lifting the United States economy by dropping energy costs for clients and producers. It has a direct correlation as we produce more on shore energy our costs and high import taxes decrease. This in affect has a trickle-down policy when oil costs less to extract, ship, and use then household energy bills go down.
President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address the President claimed recognition for governing the leading decline in oil imports in current times and for accomplishing the lowest use of need on oil imports in sixteen years. He accredited that notable outcome somewhat to improved oil production in North and South Dakota but mainly to the substantial surge in gas production that has directly stemmed from hydraulic fracturing. There is a clear indication that the risks of fracking are reducing day by day as the benefits continue to increase. The crash of 2008 brought our economy to a grinding halt. There is currently no other market that could stimulate the economy as much as the energy sector. The United States Economy will progress substantially over the next ten years due to the shale boom. Hydraulic fracturing will reduce the cost of energy while raising manufacturing. Most importantly it will reassure chemical and technology companies will receive higher endowments giving us an edge over our competitors. Fracking will also reduce the cost of transportation by fueling our vehicles with clean natural gas. By performing quality due diligence we can omit the fears associated with hydraulic fracturing once and for all.
Joint cooperation from the US Department of Energy and the International Energy Agency will contribute access to up to date reports on the environment and public safety. Hydraulic fracturing offers us hundreds of years producing clean, dependable, sustainable energy. It will directly affect the following generations while having a positive effect on our current economy. “Hydraulic fracturing is the future without it, we would lose 45 percent of domestic natural gas production and 17 percent of our oil production within 5 years.”(API 1) Some view hydraulic fracturing in an undesirable context. I am confident in hydraulic fracturing and see it as a window of opportunity for America that will help boost the economy while giving an immediate reduction in greenhouse gases. The benefits and rewards of hydraulic fracturing simply outweighs the risks.
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