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Making Heads or Tails of Fracking

Posted April 4, 2013 by Melanie to Green / Environment 0 0
This post was written by a EasyFinance.com Community member. The views expressed below may not reflect the views of EasyFinance.com.

France has banned it.  And Poland has embraced it.  The United States is still making up its mind. Fracking, hydraulic fracturing, is the process of taking natural gas from shale. Fracking allows for an easier access of shale which was once only available through painstaking methods.  And while the industry was practicing for many years without much attention,  lately, the hype and sensation surrounding fracking has made it a very difficult to decipher the heads or tales of the debate. Here are two of the major arguments surrounding franking:

1. Issue One: Is It Good or Bad for Global Warming?
Heads: At first glance, increased production of natural gas is good for the environment. It releases less CO2 into the air than coal, and so replacing coal plants with gas-fired plants seems to be a good idea for global warming. Fracking allows less expensive natural gas to be be made and so switching from coal to gas becomes not only helpful to the environment, but also more affordable than existing technologies.

Tails: In spite of inexpensive and environmental friendly outcomes, there are side effects that must be considered. Leakage is one of the side effects that need to be considered. Natural gas is methane, which is a strong greenhouse gas. When you take gas out of shale, some if it leaks.  And that is not good for global warming.

David McCabe, atmospheric scientist at the Clean Air Task Force, reports from the best of the collective work, we believe that burning natural gas for electricity produces 30-50 percent less greenhouse gas than burning coal, even accounting for the emissions of methane (and carbon dioxide) from producing and transporting the natural gas."  But opponents of fracking suggest that making a natural resource less expensive will actually eventually have a negative impact on the environment since more will be consumed.

2. Issue Two: What About the Water?

Tails: Fracking brings fluid to the surface. In the process, it picks up radioactive material that it brings along with it. This fluid is then stored in pits and pools and requires trucks to remove  it. There is a lot of risk in moving the material since surface spills can contaminate drinking water.
Not only does it prove risky to drinking water, fracking also uses a lot of water.  The environmental benefits must be looked at next to the possible negative implications.

Heads: Proponents of fracking argue that every energy technology comes with a set of risks. Even solar energy requires negative global impacts in the production of solar cells.

Whichever way you slice it, if you want to keep using fracking as a mode of producing energy, dealing with the water issues is crucial. The U.S. could follow Austrailia's lead and require fracking to be done with recycled water. They could treat throwback water, which would address water supply and wastewater disposal issues.

As with most solutions to our energy issues, fracking needs to be looked at from every angle. And while there are vehement supporters and vehement detractors of fracking, the final word isn't as cut and dry as either group would like to argue. In many cases, some hybrid of the two viewpoints will best serve our global environment and serve to further improve our use of natural resources.

About Melanie: Author Sylvia Rowe is an avid writer and blogger.  If you're considering combining an interest in the environment with a legal career, consider environmental law specific programs such as those offered by Vermont Law and Georgetown Law.  

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