I am writing in response to Matt Barry’s article, “Frackin’ in the Free World: Oil Independence.” First of all, I’m glad that TKS is taking up controversial issues such as fracking, and I think Matt Barry’s article did a lot to clear up some of the questions students may have about fracking.
I wanted to make a few additions to the points I saw in the article, specifically those regarding the environment.
First, for the sake of understanding counterarguments, it’s important to note that the natural gas that comes from fracking actually produces less CO2 than conventional oil.
However, there is a large amount of evidence (see the NOAA’s research in Colorado) indicating that the fracking process releases large quantities of methane gas. Methane gas is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, and large releases of methane speed up global warming.
Unfortunately, studies on the release of methane gas are very expensive, and it is in the interest of companies that employ fracking (that is, energy companies with lots of money and governmental allies) to discourage these studies.
There are currently only two complete studies, and they give opposite conclusions.
I think Matt’s points on “energy apathy” are extremely important, and I’m glad he addressed the topic.
If natural gas is cheap, we won’t look into renewables.
However, the article did not address the biggest environmental concern regarding fracking: groundwater pollution.
Again, there are few studies on how fracking directly impacts the surrounding environment and groundwater, even though fracking is already occurring all over the country.
Apparently most legislators and energy companies think that Americans’ health is a side issue at best. But again, experiences in areas like Pennsylvania and Alberta show that fracking releases huge amounts of chemicals, carcinogens and radioactive substances into groundwater and rivers.
In many areas of the country, this water is later converted into drinking water. Purification processes likely don’t filter out most of these toxins.
As a final note, I would encourage anyone further interested in the environmental impact of fracking to look into the Spectra Pipeline in NYC, and the debate taking place there.
Sienna Cittadino ’13