God send or world’s end: Is Natural Gas the Solution or the Problem?

EHS-Journal-Hydraulic-Fracturing-by-USEPA

Fracking or hydraulic fracturing is an extremely contrevorsial method of extracting natural gas from the ground.

It involves a procedure where the extracter has to blast a mix of water, sand and other chemicals, some higly toxic and are known to cause cancer such naphthalene, benzene, and acrylamide, into the ground, creating thin cracks which the natural gas can be collected. An article on Policymic.com titled, Fracking Exposed: Shocking New Report Links Drilling With Breast Cancer and Women’s Violence states,

“Some reports indicate that more than 25 percent of the chemicals used in natural gas operations have been linked to cancer or mutations, although companies like Haliburton have lobbied hard to keep the public in the dark about the exact formula of fracking fluids.”

Earthworks, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the damage from irresponsible mineral and energy development while searching for sustainable solutions claims,

“Some studies have shown that anywhere from 20-85% of fracking fluids may remain underground. Used fracturing fluids that return to the surface are often referred to as flowback, and these wastes are typically stored in open pits or tanks at the well site prior to disposal.”

For a more detailed description of how fracking works check out: http://www.cleanwateraction.org/feature/fracking-explained

hydraulic fracturing process

Fracking has enormous economic benefits for countries with natural gas reserves such as Canada, America, and the United Kingdom, and it actually burns a lot cleaner then some other fuels. During times of financial instability, the natural gas industry has remained strong and a significant driver for many economies.

The Washington Examiner provides an example of the economic benefit of hydraulic fracturing in the States saying, “Fracking also has a direct effect on trade. The U.S. has imported less natural gas since 2007, and the Energy Information Administration predicts that by 2020 the U.S. will be a net exporter of natural gas.” Source

Another even more extreme example comes from Rawstory who says, “In 2011, the state (Netherlands) raked 12 billion euros of gas cash into its coffers, representing around 8 percent of state revenues, and that is set to hit 14 billion euros when 2012 figures are released. Without the gas, the Netherlands’ deficit would have been around 6.2 percent in 2011, or around the same as that of crisis-hit Cyprus. Source

So what’s the big deal with fracking?

 

Homes near fracking sites have seen the rate of earthquakes rise nearly six-fold, destroying property and clearly an environmental hazard.

dutch-farmer-damange-earthquake-afp

The photo of the man pointing to the crack in his wall is from Rawstory‘s article, Natural gas extraction causing frequent quakes, property damage in northern Netherlands.

A quote from the article explains what kind of effect fracking has had on people living in the area.”The earthquakes have become increasingly frequent after the Netherlands more than doubled its gas production since 2000, hitting 50 billion cubic metres annually, according to a report published earlier this year by Jan de Jong, the inspector general of the State Mines Surveillance (SoDM) service. There were 110 earthquakes here between 1991 and 2000, SoDM figures say, but the frequency has risen more than six-fold to hit 500 between 2000 and 2013. In February of this year alone, four earthquakes above magnitude 2 have hit the region.” Source

The tap water in some homes has been so contaminated by the fracking process that it can be lit on fire as demonstrated in the documentary Gasland.(Include video)

*Note there is some dispute about whether this problem existed prior due to other drilling and gas related problems.

So is this valuable resource worth the massive risks? The answer still seems to be a matter of opinion but we have to contiue getting fuel from somewhere and our other alternatives in Canada are the oil sands in Alberta which have almost as bad of a wrap as fracking, if not worse.

The most popular option among many Canadians is to invest more money into renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind. Canada already has impressive hydro, but this only contributes to our electricity and will not replace good ol’ petroleum for some time.

Let’s just hope that the more environmentally-friendly methods of energy extraction become cost effective soon and that we don’t experience any fracking catastrophes in the meantime.

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