News Stories

Will Fracking Save Us or Shake Us?

What is "fracking?" It's removing natural gas from the ground--and there is LOTS of it right here in the US, so if we produce cars that run on natural gas (as lots of trucks do already), then we can solve our oil dependency problems. HOWEVER, fracking uses LOTS of water (which we are ALSO short on) AND it is not necessarily emission-free.

Fracking involves using millions of gallons of water, sand and a chemical cocktail to break up organic-rich shale to release natural gas resources. Pennsylvania is the “sweet spot” for this resource, because of its abundance of natural gas. Pittsburgh has even outlawed fracking in its city limits, as has Buffalo, New York, amid concerns that chemical leaks could contaminate groundwater, wells and other water resources. The EPA is now doing additional study on the relationship of hydraulic fracturing and drinking water and groundwater after congress stated its concern about the potential adverse impact that the process may have on water quality and public health. Billions of dollars from domestic as well as international sources have been invested in the industry. The chemical cocktail used in the process is actually relatively small. The mixture is about 95% water, nearly 5% sand, and the rest chemical, yet, some of those chemicals are known toxins and carcinogens, which is what leads to the "not in my backyard" backlash from communities that can be prospects for drilling. The flow-back water from drilling is naturally a very salty brine, prone to bacterial growth, and potentially contaminated with heavy metals.

In addition, there's the question of how to properly dispose of millions of gallons of contaminated water, as well as concerns about trucking it on winding, rural back roads. Some researchers think that extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale could do more to aggravate global warming than mining coal. While natural gas has been touted as a clean-burning fuel that produces less carbon dioxide than coal, ecologist Robert Howarth warns that we should be more concerned about methane leaking into the atmosphere during fracking. He reminds us that natural gas is mostly methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas, especially in the short term, with 105 times more warming impact, pound for pound, than carbon dioxide. Even small leaks make a big difference. He estimates that as much as 8% of the methane in shale gas leaks into the air during the lifetime of a hydraulic shale gas well--up to twice what escapes from conventional gas production.

But the main problem may be earthquakes! Nearly two dozen small quakes have been recorded in Arkansas in a single day, and other areas where fracking is going on have been shaken up as well. On the Fox News website, Alec Liu and Jeremy A. Kaplan report that seismologist Steve Horton is worried by a correlation between the Arkansas earthquake swarm and the disposal of the huge amounts of wastewater from fracking. They quote Kaplan as saying, "Ninety percent of these earthquakes that have happened since 2009 have been within 6 kilometers of these salt water disposal wells." He thinks the timing is too coincidental to ignore.

Is this a conspiracy? If you want to raise a glass of beer with good ol' conspiracy expert Jim Marrs (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show) then come to our Dreamland Festival in June--He'll be holding court there, as usual!



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