Fracking started way back in Kansas in 1947 as an experiment meant to extract natural gas from limestone. In 1949 the American company Haliburton turned that experiment into a booming commercial enterprise. Now, what are the pros and cons of fracking since it is being done on a massive scale?
By the 1950s fracking exploded onto the scene with more than 3,000 wells producing natural gas every month. The modern version of fracking most of us are familiar with got its start in the late 90s. US oil and natural gas production levels skyrocketed in the wake of this shale gas revolution and today around half of the crude oil produced in the US comes from fracking.
If you want to learn more about the process or discover the pros and cons of fracking then keep reading to find out everything you ever wanted to know, both the good and the bad.
What Is Fracking? (Hydraulic Fracturing)
Fracking is also called hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracking. It involves horizontal drilling deep underground into natural deposits of shale rock and fracturing rock formations with high-pressure fluids. The fractures allow shale gas and shale oil reserves to release into a natural gas well for collection.
So what are the pros and cons of fracking exactly? We will go over 9 of the biggest fracking advantages and disadvantages so you can discover the main pros and cons of fracking.
Important Fracking Pros and Cons to Know
When it comes to harvesting precious natural resources like gas and oil, there are several benefits and drawbacks to every extraction method. Hydrofracking is no exception and there are just as many disadvantages of fracking as there are advantages.
Read on to explore a list of hydraulic fracking pros and cons to help you understand both the good and the bad side of the innovative natural gas harvesting technique.
Pros of Fracking
We will start our pros and cons of fracking list with the positive aspects of hydrofracking. While opponents of fracking might claim the harm far outweighs the benefits, they can’t deny there are many advantages to using the fracking method.
Here are 9 reasons that prove how useful and beneficial fracking can be.
1. Less Dependence on Foreign Oil
In the modern world, energy independence is critical. Fracking is beneficial because it helps the United States leverage domestic energy resources instead of relying on other countries to meet the high demand.
As the largest consumer of oil in the world, the United States has long been dependent on other countries to meet our staggering demand levels.
Thanks to fracking, the US is more independent of foreign oil than ever before with the rising availability of fossil fuel products. Less dependency on foreign bodies like OPEC means America is not constantly at the mercy of geopolitical price gouging.
2. Sensible Energy Security
It’s imperative for the US to have a constant supply of affordable, reliable energy and that often means dealing with unstable power structures or hostile and corrupt regimes to meet our staggering demand. Fracking allows us to enjoy energy independence and more security with domestic sources of energy rather than foreign ones.
See Related: Solar vs Wind Energy: What’s the Difference?
3. Access to a Larger Supply of Oil and Natural Gas
Whether we like it or not, oil and gas consumption makes the world go round. Hydraulic fracturing provides efficient, easy access to fossil fuels like natural gas. The innovative extraction process works to extract fossil fuels that are necessary to keep society running.
Until we can rely wholly on alternative energies, we are stuck with using the fossil fuels that fracking provides us. Fracking makes access to fossil fuels much easier so that we can enjoy a reliable, secure supply of oil and gas to last us decades.
While leaps in eco-friendly energy technology are bound to happen in the near future, maybe in only a few years time, for now, fracking is one of the best options to stave off an energy crisis.
4. Job Growth
Fracking operations to extract oil and natural gas have grown in popularity over the past two decades. This has helped to create lots of job opportunities in the booming industry and often leads to increased levels of economic prosperity.
Millions of Americans have found a well-paying job working on fracking operations, more than 2 million in fact. By 2035 fracking is set to create more than 3.5 million jobs.
Surveys of communities where fracking occurs showed lower levels of unemployment than the rest of the country. In poorer regions where lots of residents are jobless, a fracking operation can change lives for the better.
5. Natural Gas Is Less Harmful Than Coal
Of all the pros and cons of the natural gas fracking industry, this is probably the most contentious. While burning any fossil fuels for energy takes a toll on the environment, proponents of fracking point out how much more harmful the use of coal is compared to natural gas resources.
The transition from fossil fuels like oil and gas to renewable energies like wind, solar, and even nuclear power may take years yet. In the interim, natural gas damages our environment and climate the least.
Natural gas emits 40% less CO2 than coal and it can be stored to meet varying energy consumption demands in the future. There are also widespread public health benefits to replacing coal with natural gas/ It produces fewer harmful particles in the air than coal and other fossil fuels.
See Related: Is Natural Gas A Fossil Fuel? Here’s What to Know
6. More Tax Revenue
Fracking can earn gas and oil companies much higher profits, which means their employees will earn higher wages. This usually means that local communities benefit from higher tax revenue from fracking gas resources. Local taxes pay for essential services like fire and police along with health and education services, infrastructure projects, road maintenance, and lots of other things that benefit individual communities everywhere.
7. Cheaper Natural Gas Prices
Of all the pros and cons of fracking mentioned here, the price of gas projects is probably one that regular consumers will appreciate the most.
Fracking has extracted so much natural gas that it helps drive down prices because the supply is now much higher. It can help Americans save money on energy bills at home as well as their price tag at the gas pump.
In the US, fracking is responsible for a 47% drop in natural gas prices since 2013. From 2007 to 2013, fracking saved American households 0 a year in home energy costs.
8. Lower Surface Toxicity Levels
While there are concerns about chemicals and toxicity, fracking supporters claim that it reduces the probability of surface toxicity because the blasting process happens so far underground. Because the shale deposits are found so deep under the water table, proponents claim it poses a very minuscule threat to local groundwater sources. There are already more than 250,000 fracked wells in the US and when they are properly regulated they use very little threat to the health and safety of US citizens.
9. Cars Run Cleaner With Natural Gas
When cars run on liquefied natural gas or compressed natural gas they run much cleaner than cars that run on diesel or gasoline. If all our cars were powered by natural gas we could slash our national carbon-monoxide emissions by 90% and our nitrogen-oxide emissions by 60%.
Vehicles with natural gas fuel systems are the cleanest running cars on the road today and they produce only about 5 to 10% of the emissions allowable standard. Natural gas could also help power the manufacturing plants where electric cars are designed and built, which will cut down emissions even more. They can produce up to 30% fewer greenhouse gasses than diesel or gasoline-powered vehicles.
See Related: Most Eco-Friendly Cars for Any Lifestyle
Cons of Fracking
As much as the benefits of fracking are touted, the fracking industry still gets a lot of heat for the disadvantages of the fracking process. The most vehement opponents of fracking call on world leaders to ban fracking. They consider it just as dangerous as other extraction methods.
Most opponents of fracking hold up these cons and insist we need to research viable alternatives for renewable energy sources because of the consequences mentioned below.
Of all the negatives of fracking mentioned in this article, earthquakes have got to be some of the most worrisome. According to some studies, fracking sites and drilling operations make any given area more likely to experience earthquakes. There is no concrete proof, but there are lots of indicators that fracking activity can increase earthquake risk, putting millions of people’s lives and well-being at risk.
In 2019 the UK’s Oil and Gas Authority published a report that concluded it was impossible to accurately predict the probability of earthquakes associated with fracking. This finding caused the British government to rescind support for future fracking endeavors.
11. Environmental Concerns and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
From a global warming perspective, fracking is very harmful to the earth and our future here. Fracking has a very high rate of carbon emissions which is what brought us global warming, or climate change.
When you consider the pros and cons of fracking operations it’s hard not to fixate on carbon emissions versus the impending energy crisis that cutting out all fossil fuels could trigger. We want to avoid a climate crisis so avoiding large-scale fracking would be a good place to start if we want to avoid the continued creation of greenhouse gasses and carbon dioxide emissions.
12. Health Risks
According to yale climate connections natural gas produces methane emissions that are bad for human health. Prolonged exposure can cause drowsiness, nausea, dizziness, headache, and even suffocation in high enough amounts.
According to the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, “proximity to hydraulic fracture sites is associated with compromised infant health.” Complications include increased infant mortality risk, high levels of ADHD, and a higher prevalence of asthma.
13. Pollution Concerns
Many people who oppose fracking look at it as a pollution risk that could spread toxic chemicals and ruin both drinking water supplies and air quality levels. Air and water pollution are serious concerns that could massively affect any communities where fracking sites are found. Air pollution and water contamination can cause irreparable harm that crosses generations and decades.
According to an Environmental Protection Agency report, the spilling of fracking fluids and chemicals causes high levels of discharge in local sources of groundwater and wastewater. If a well does not store or dispose of fracking chemicals safely, they can get into the environment and can wreak havoc on local ecosystems.
See Related: Best Books on Pollution | Noise, Air, and Water
14. Destruction of Flora and Fauna
Fracking can be destructive when it comes to natural habitats and the species that call them home. During the fracking process, huge amounts of soil are altered and massive amounts of chemicals are used.
This contaminates any water, soil, animals, and humans in the vicinity. All of this containment buildup can alter natural habitats and ecosystems in terrible ways, killing off native flora and fauna in no time flat.
Natural gas obtained this way directly contributes to endangering certain species of vulnerable animals.
15. Larger Water Footprint
One of the more overlooked cons of fracking comes from the amplified water intensity levels of the fracking process. Exploration of unconventional energy exploration has grown rapidly in recent decades. Through it all, water use and wastewater production in maps of shale gas regions increased by more than 700%.
Water intensity in all US shale basins increased, except for the Marcellus Shale basin. The steady increase in water intensity over time means that large fracking operations will use more and more water with time.
Fracking takes a lot of water as it stands. If that amount keeps growing and growing then it could lead to catastrophic water shortages in fracking regions.
16. Fossil Fuels Are Only Temporary Solutions
Even if fracking companies would negate all the pollution risks and the large water footprints, it would still make fracking a short-term solution. In the long run, we have to transition from fossil fuel energy to renewable sources of energy as quickly as we can.
Because fracking is only good for extracting more fossil fuels from the earth is not a source of hope for future renewable energy sources. We shouldn’t be trying to find better ways to extract fossil fuels from the earth, we should be looking for green-energy solutions that pivot away from the dangers of fossil fuel sources.
See Related: Is Propane a Fossil Fuel? Here’s What to Know
17. Mystery Chemicals Used In Fracking
One of the biggest issues about fracking is that no one knows exactly what fracking fluid is. You can find some chemical comparisons out there, drilling operations do not have to share their chemical blend if it is deemed proprietary. The EPA has identified 1,084 reported chemicals in various fracking formulas, most of which humans should not be exposed to for long periods.
Some of the chemicals used are harmful non-ionic surfactants like Naphthenic Acid Ethoxylate, Propargyl Alcohol, Ethylene Glycol, and Methanol. Fracking can also release petroleum hydrocarbons like xylene and benzene which heighten the risk of developing asthma and similar respiratory illnesses.
18. Noise Pollution
Fracking for electricity generation and natural gas can cause air and water pollution. It can also cause significant levels of noise pollution.
The fracking process is very noisy and irritating. Anyone who lives by a fracking operation will probably get sick of it very quickly. The noise pollution tanks resale value to boot and makes it harder to sell or rent a house due to all the constant noise.
According to a UC Berkeley study, fracking noises can even harm your health. The constant din can cause health problems from sleep disturbance, anxiety, and cardiovascular disease.