As time has progressed human civilization has continued to find ways to power technology. There is no debate on the fact that, in our haste to develop and produce energy, the environment has taken a backseat. Not too long ago I wrote about the nuclear degradation in Japan from the Fukushima reactor — and now another potentially dangerous situation is on the horizon. Hydraulic Fracturing, or hydrofracking, is a gas extraction process that has become increasingly popular over the last ten years, and it is finding its way into every small community that resides on top of precious shale fields. My own home town rests atop Marcellus Shale, and earlier this week Can the Man took a field trip to the town board meeting to decide the future of fracking in Chautauqua County.
The process of fracking revolves around what is known as a horizontal well. Normal wells, like a water well, are vertical and merely tap into the aquifer below the soil. Hydrofracking wells drill down into the gas-rich shale, and turn the well horizontal. At this point explosions break apart the shale to release the gas, and then thousands of gallons of chemicals and ground water are pumped into the well. The solutions used for extraction contain hundreds of dangerous chemicals that have a wide array of nasty side effects in extremely high doses. Recent studies have shown that even radioactive material may be extracted from the shale after the process is complete. Radium 226, uranium, and radon have all been found in tested waste water from fracking.
A proposed one-year fracking moratorium was voted down by the Chautauqua County board as many constituents believed that any hindrance of natural gas production in the area would result in job loss and a wasted opportunity for many local businesses to make money. Opponents of the moratorium were quick to mention that limited natural gas drilling has been performed safely in Chautauqua County in the past. In addition they stated that the differences between standard gas wells and hydrofracking wells were minimal at best. Each well bores deep into the earth, but once the hydrofracking well reaches the gas rich shale the well turns horizontal instead of continuing deeper. Both job loss and squandered profits are common arguments in the now worldwide argument for fracking. There is no question that billions of dollars of untapped natural gas would bring in money, jobs, and business—but is it the kind of business this county should be partaking in?
Many people who have researched the issue may have seen the famed documentary Gasland, which attempted to expose the fracking industry as a looming environmental disaster. Since the film was introduced, several claims made in the film have proven false or inaccurate. As with many issues in the world today, we have to take radicalized viewpoints with a grain of salt. Hydrofracking has several obvious dangers, however, the hysteria driven by Gasland has misled the public into misunderstanding the intricacies of the issue. I am not claiming to be a fracking-supporter, that’d be fracking-stupid. It is clear that we should not be pursuing energy technology that has huge potential for disaster. Moreover we cannot believe the claims that the short term risks will be overshadowed by massive financial gains and long-term energy surplus.
When it comes down to it, I do not want gas corporations to have access to my small community. Even more so I do not want the land beneath my feet to be cracked and filled with dangerous chemicals. Those very same, possibly radioactive chemicals, after extracted are shipped in large tanker trucks through the towns around the area and on our highways. Living in a town that revolves around water, is it smart to bring in gas wells near an already polluted and dying lake? The possibility of catastrophic accidents happening is not only possible but probable from the lessons of history, and we won’t that realize it until it is too late. This is a typical example of corporations on the cutting edge of the process moving forward before the public can even begin to think about regulating it. I would like to compare it to new to the market prescription drugs. Sure they might list of several possible side effects, but no one can say what ten, fifteen, or twenty years of taking that drug might do on your body.