Fracking Our Way into Oblivion, One Ecological Disaster at a Time

Over the past few years, the term fracking has become a common and controversial one across the United States and due both to the ecological devastation it wreaks and the robust denials of its proponents (largely the same crew who believe that global warming is a mere fantasy concocted by the liberal left) that this highly questionable process is harmful.   Fracking, the oft-used slang term for hydraulic fracturing (technically, horizontal drilling combined with a multi-stage process of hydraulic fracturing), is a fairly new method of natural gas extraction.  The process involves first drilling a vertical well to the desired depth, then extending the drilling 90 degrees horizontally for thousands more feet into the shale formation where natural gas is thought to exist.  Then, a mixture of sand, water and various chemicals is injected into the well at high pressure in order to create fissures in the shale and allow the gas to escape.   The gas is drawn back up the wellbore to the surface where it is processed, refined and shipped out.  However, only about half of the poisonous chemical concoction that was pumped into the shale (known variously in the trade as wastewater, flowback or “produced water”) also returns to the surface when the fracking process is completed.   Flowback is generally contained in steel tanks and eventually “stored” in deep oil and gas wells.  The rest of the fracking fluid remains in the earth to wreak untold havoc.


Fracking differs from traditional gas extraction methods in several ways.  First, fracking wells are thousands of feet deeper than traditional natural gas wells.  Next, the process uses up to 100 times the amount of local fresh water per well than traditional methods; between two and five million gallons of water for each fracking well.  And, the fracking fluid injected into the earth contains numerous toxic chemical contaminants that the natural gas industry feels no obligation to disclose because they consider the contents of their fracking fluids to be proprietary trade secrets.


While fracking has been touted as an expedient method of increasing our domestic energy supply, those residents living near fracking sites who have turned on their faucets to find fire rather than water coming out, or had their properties blanketed in a blackened ash of mystery chemicals after nearby fracking site explosions have quite likely changed their minds (albeit too late) about the bill of goods they were sold to convince them to lease their land to the energy companies for such a nefarious purpose in the first place.   We’ll delve further into specifics next time.