Fracking refers to hydraulic drilling, which is a method of extracting oil and natural gas by injecting a liquid into the underground rock at high pressure. The pressured fluid causes fractured networks that allow the oil and gas embedded in dense stones to flow into a wellbore and emerge on the surface. The liquid used to extract the crude oil is known as frac fluid. It is a composition of water, sand and chemical additives that aid to inhibit the growth of microorganisms, to protect the well casing from corrosion and to surge the injection rate of the frac liquid. According to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in the U.S., about 23,000 crude oil mines were utilizing the method in the country by 2000. By 2015, there were around 300,000 using the frac fluid technique which produced 67% of the natural gas and 51% of the crude oil in the nation (De Silva, Simons & Stevens, 2016). Also, in 2015, 33 states created natural gas and 31 crude oil. Successively, by 2017, data from the EIA indicates that fracking is not practiced in North Carolina as the region has no oil and gas reserves. Even so, various areas of the country have primary laws that govern fracking. The rules determine the drilling methods, waste disposal, site reclamation, plugging, location and spacing of mining wells. In some states, gas and oil commissions govern the activity while in others the relevant environmental governing agencies oversee the practice.
Similarly, primary laws are governing the trade, established by the federal administration, which includes public health and environmental requirements. They include the clean water act controls the disposal of waste into water bodies and which requires oil and gas miners to obtain permits to allow them to discharge the liquid utilized in the fracking process and the water found in the mined compound into surface water. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, which requires frac miners to report before discharging hazardous substances to allow EPA to inspect the dangerous waste and requires the operators to rehabilitate areas affected by the toxic spills. Lastly, the clean air act that regulates air pollutant wastes emitted the production process.
Additionally, various studies depict the economic impact of fracking. A survey conducted by the Brookings Institute in 2015, indicate that prices of gas in 2013 decreased by 47% in 2013 due to the increase in fracking activities. Specifically, the popularity of the business reduced the price of gas by 3.45 dollars for a1000 cubic feet (De Silva et al., 2016). Further, the authors of the research indicate that the residential consumer gas bills diminished by 13 billion annually between 2007 and 2013.Moreover, the writers highlight that state regulators of the trade are uncertain about which mitigating strategies to employ that can address environmental concerns. Also, a publication to the Congress by the Congressional Office Budget (CBO) in 2014, indicated that gas rates would be 70% percent higher if the current fracking procedures are not improved. The study attributes the next hike from the gross domestic product which will 0.9% higher by 2040 and the detail that federal tax revenues from the sector will increase by 2020 due to increased production. Another study in January 2013 by the American Enterprise Institute documented that fracking activities generated about 36 million dollars in economic events in 2011 (Mazur, 2016). Subsequently, a survey in September of 2013, by the HIS showed that the increase in gas and oil production increased the disposable income in the U.S. by 1200 dollars per household in 2012, which resulted from a decrease in energy bills and the price of commodities.
Notably, oil and gas mining by fracking has adverse effects on the air, water, and the earth. Accordingly, the fracking process causes air pollution when gas waste such as Volatile Organic Compounds, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides enter the atmosphere. Nonetheless, it not feasible to determine the precise extent of the air pollution. A study in 2015, showed that fracking operators utilized about 250 gallons of water between 2005 and 2015 in the extraction process. Mainly, there is speculation that the fracking process induces seismic activity. A study in 2014 by the Geological Survey state that the hydraulic fracturing procedure rarely causes earthquakes and when it does there are very minimal and cannot cause structural damage. Further, the research speculates that the underground disposal of wastewater utilized in fracking can cause earthquakes. Another identical study by the Geological Survey in 2016 established that the disposed water was responsible for the prevalence of earthquakes in the Central U.S. from 2009-2013. The latter raises more pressure than frack walls. A similar study by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2015, highlighted that three factors that cause disposal well to induce seismic activity. They include the path that enables increased pressure to transform from a well to a fault, stressed faults, and the accumulation of pressure due to the disposal of fluids.
Fracking has caused widespread controversy in America that emanates from environmental concerns. Among the issues is that fracking requires massive amounts of water which attract significant transportation costs. Furthermore, environmentalists state that the chemical additives used in the production process are carcinogenic which are likely to contaminate the groundwater around a site. The oil and gas industry addresses the concerns by indicating that the adverse effects of fracking result from incompetent extraction techniques. Contrariwise, there are worries that fracking can cause tremors. Moreover, opposes the fracking process indicate the method is distracting the governments and energy corporations from investing in renewable methods, as such, encouraging the reliance on fossil fuels. The controversy around the fracking process spreads across the globe. In the U.K. the administration supports the practice stating that it accrues the nation with greater energy security while promoting growth and creating employment opportunities (Jaspal & Nerlich, 2014). David Cameron, U.K.'s prime minister, is a vocal promoter of fracking. He highlights that the process can produce numerous jobs and reduce costs. In January, MP's denied a ban on fracking but later clarified that they would allow the practice in National Parks (Hill, 2014). As such, the U.K government has rolled out several fracking projects. Further, the U.K. government indicates that it advocates for safe and environmentally sound fracking procedures. Nevertheless, countries such as Scotland prohibit the fracking practices.
According to a recent study, fracking is among the least sustainable ways to produce electricity. In a list formulated by environmentalists, fracking is ranked seventh out of the nine energy sources featured when compared to social and economic stability (BBC, 2015). Although fracking ranked above coal, it was way below sustainable sources such as solar photovoltaic and wind energies, which topped the list. Likewise, experts indicate that significant changes are necessary to make fracking as viable as wind and solar sources.
BBC. (2015, December 16). BBC NEWS. Retrieved from What is fracking and why is it controversial?: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-14432401De Silva, P. N. K., Simons, S. J. R., & Stevens, P. (2016). Economic impact analysis of natural gas development and the policy implications. Energy Policy, 88, 639-651.
Hill, M. (2014). Shale gas regulation in the UK and health implications of fracking. The Lancet, 383(9936), 2211-2212.
Jaspal, R., & Nerlich, B. (2014). Fracking in the UK press: Threat dynamics in an unfolding debate. Public Understanding of Science, 23(3), 348-363.
Mazur, A. (2016). How did the fracking controversy emerge in the period 2010-2012? Public Understanding of Science, 25(2), 207-222.
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