Reprinted from Reader Supported News
"When the last tree is cut, the last fish caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can't eat money." ~ Alanis Obomsawin"The United States is the Saudi Arabia of natural gas."- Advertisement -
The natural gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has simultaneously become a cash cow for unimaginably wealthy energy companies, a brutally efficient destroyer of limited natural resources depended upon by the rest of us, and a disturbing new trend that will lead to massive social instability. Until we come together and put a stop to fracking by direct action, banning fracking in our cities and states and using clean energy, fracking will continue to deplete every everything we have until it's too late.
Most important, fracking shouldn't be seen as just a niche cause for environmentalists, but as a huge intersectional issue that affects everyone, no matter which issue you're most passionate about. Fracking hurts all of us, and it will take all of us to come together and end it for good. Here are nine perfectly good reasons fracking needs to end immediately and permanently.
1. Fracking Results in Unprecedented Amounts of Earthquakes
Oklahoma, home to hundreds of fracking sites, is now more earthquake-prone than California. Between 1990 and 2008, Oklahoma had only three earthquakes per year that registered at 3.0 or more on the Richter scale. In 2013, Oklahoma had 109 earthquakes. That number has increased to 238 as of June 2014. One quake caused by drilling destroyed 14 homes in Oklahoma City, injured two people and buckled pavement. Additional, persistent quakes will undoubtedly cause more injuries, potential deaths, and damage to infrastructure, costing taxpayers millions. EPA seismologists acknowledge a very clear correlation between fracking and earthquakes, saying the quakes would stop as soon as wells were turned off.
2. Fracking Results in Extreme Water Contamination
Fracking wells, which inject water, sand, and chemicals deep into the ground to extract natural gas, inevitably create significant runoff into groundwater systems. 40,000 gallons of 600 different kinds of chemicals are used in each fracking well, including formaldehyde, mercury, uranium, and hydrochloric acid. To run all the fracking wells in the United States, it takes 360 BILLION gallons of those harmful chemicals. And only 30 to 50 percent of those chemicals are reclaimed, while the rest is left in the ground, not biodegradable. Pennsylvania, a major fracking state, has just admitted that fracking has contaminated local water supplies 243 times in 22 counties.
In California, where a historic drought has already started water rationing in major population centers (more on that in section 3), 3 billion gallons of fracking waste just leaked into aquifers containing precious drinking water reserves for residents. Josh Fox's film "Gasland" illustrates that homes affected by fracking have flammable water. Drinking the water can cause respiratory, sensory, and neurological issues. And the situation in California is just a prelude to what's to come if fracking is allowed to continue. In West Virginia, where 300,000 people had their drinking water contaminated by a chemical used by the coal industry this January, government officials are weighing proposals to frack under the Ohio River, which supplies drinking water to 3 million people.
3. Fracking Is Responsible for Record Droughts
Each fracking project in the United States requires as much as 8 million gallons of water to complete. Taking the U.S.'s 500,000 fracking sites into account, with each site being fracked 18 times, that translates to a whopping 72 TRILLION gallons of water to maintain every fracking well. That's over half of the water in Lake Erie. In the meantime, states with huge and growing populations like Texas and California are experiencing exceptional drought conditions, causing food prices to rise as more crops and livestock die off. Towns along the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas are seeing 45 to 50 percent of total water usage come from fracking companies. California's water reservoirs are at less than 50 percent, and water officials say that there's maybe 12 to 18 months of water left if strict conservation measures are implemented. Once those reservoirs run out, nobody is sure what will happen next, given how little rain California has seen in recent years.
4. Fracking Exacerbates Climate Change
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that as you deplete water supplies by the trillions of gallons, there's less water in the ground to continue the natural cycle of water. An interrupted water cycle means less water in the air, which means fewer rain clouds, fewer crops, more deserts, and entire population centers without a critical resource, leading to widespread social instability. Fracking also puts an exponential amount of greenhouse gases into the air. Each of America's 500,000 gas wells requires 400 tanker trucks to carry water and supplies to and from the site -- that's quantified to 200 million tanker trucks dumping tons of additional CO2 into the atmosphere every day. Methane, which traps even more sunlight in the atmosphere than CO2 and contributes even more to climate change, regularly leaks from fracking sites. As investigative journalist Steve Horn reported for DeSmogBlog, Mark Boling, an executive at Southwestern Energy, admitted that the amount of leaking methane at fracking sites concerned him greatly. One recent study that linked fracking to climate change illustrated that fracking was even worse for the climate than coal. So much for the "natural gas is cleaner than coal" argument.
5. Fracking Leads to Further Exploitation of Immigrant Workers
If you care about immigration, then you should care about fracking. Companies drilling new wells looking to skimp on labor costs have been caught trucking in undocumented workers to do the hard labor. These workers are often paid poverty wages and put in unsafe environments, with the underlying threat of deportation if they speak out about the insufficient pay and grueling working conditions. One example is GPX, of Sealy, Texas, which was accused of trucking in undocumented workers to perform seismic and surface surveying in Pennsylvania. A local pipe-building union fighting for its 700 members to have good-paying jobs claims the immigrant workers are given a less-stringent test on welding, which can lead to faulty well construction, greatly increasing the chances of a pipeline leaking into a water system. If GPX is found guilty of hiring undocumented immigrants, they face a $10 million fine, and five years of probation on each of the 20 counts.