Fracking Ridiculous

Americans have an oil addiction, and it’s killing them. In order to feed their addiction in the face of rising fuel costs and dwindling supplies, they are turning to more dangerous methods of obtaining this oil, with little or no regard for the people that live near the extraction sites or for the earth itself. The newest and most dangerous of these methods is hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, and it must be stopped.

Fracking is a process for mining natural gas. Huge amounts of water, infused with hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals, are injected into the earth in order to create fractures in the rocks that hold large pockets of this gas. While the gas itself, being a carbon-based fuel, causes pollution of its own when it is burned, the greater danger comes from the water used during the process.

A single well can use more than five million gallons of water over its lifetime. This water is contaminated with up to 750 different chemicals during the fracking process, of which as many as 650 are potentially carcinogenic. After the water is used to extract the gas, it must then be disposed of. The most popular methods of disposal involve trucking this waste-water to treatment plants, diverting it to evaporation pools, or simply releasing it into lakes or streams. In all three of these methods, many of the chemicals seep into the earth and mix with the groundwater, which feeds the wells that supply water to the people living in the area.

In addition to the various neurological diseases and cancers that result from ingesting this water, many people have reported that their water is mixed with such a great amount of methane gas that the water itself becomes flammable. Evidence also suggests that the fracking process weakens the earth to an extent that there is a greater likelihood of earthquakes in the areas near the mines.

With the numerous dangers resulting from hydraulic fracturing, it would seem obvious that regulations would be imposed limiting the practice. This has not been the case. Natural gas, like all fossil fuels, is an extremely profitable resource. For this reason, states have been eager to grant leases to gas companies in order to boost their struggling economies. Corporations have been allowed to drill with virtually no safety measures or restrictions. They have also funded dubious studies that claim fracking is harmless and that the chemicals in the groundwater are not caused by the process. Unfortunately, states are using this study to justify allowing additional drilling, though the findings have been repeatedly debunked. Sadly, the large amounts of money involved are causing many landowners to consider jeopardizing their health, and that of their families, in order to cash in on the fracking boom.

Many people, however, are starting to fight back. A New York court has recently decided that individual towns have the right to override state decisions and ban fracking. And, lawsuits are piling up against the corporations, causing them to reconsider whether or not it makes financial sense to continue to lease private land for drilling. Numerous protests, including one at the White House, and an acclaimed documentary film, “Gasland,” have brought additional attention to the issue, which is helping turn public opinion against fracking and the gas companies.

Public opinion is just the beginning. People need to move beyond protest and on to legislation. The gas companies will drill as long as it is profitable, and will pump contaminated water into the earth until every bit of gas has been extracted. And, the government will allow it as long as there is money to be made. Until the people let it be known that they will not stand for it, fracking will continue, and people will continue to suffer its effects. People must be prioritized over profits, and fracking must be stopped.

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