ICYMI — Top nat’l energy expert on Forbes.com: Hydraulic fracturing critical to “developing jobs, clean sources of energy”
EPA’s Fracking Hysteria
Dr. Michael Economides
Aug. 20 2010
- “Though activist campaigns are garnering increasing public interest in the fracking process, two points remain unchanged: its decades-long safety record and its role in America’s prosperity”
- “Environmental and health studies have been conducted for years showing no linkage between fracking and drinking water contamination”
After postponing a hydraulic fracturing (aka “fracking”) hearing slated for upstate New York last week, EPA is planning a new event which reports suggest could turn into a full two-day spectacle sometime in September. Though activist campaigns are garnering increasing public interest in the fracking process, two points remain unchanged: its decades-long safety record and its role in America’s prosperity/ So why all the hype and fervor over a reliable technique that has been around since 1947?
For those that don’t know, fracking is a technique which uses water pressure to create fractures in rock that allows extraction of oil and natural gas. Those who work in the energy industry are rightfully worried that efforts to curb this critical process will also eliminate their jobs. As high unemployment persists — over 7.7 million US jobs lost since the recession began in December 2007 — and the economy struggles to rebound, development of America’s natural gas resources is bringing new investments to communities across the country. In addition to the economic benefits, it is also essential in providing America clean natural gas which fuels public transportation and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Developing jobs and clean sources of energy are just some of the reasons people are so passionately supportive of hydraulic fracturing.
Yet, some activist groups are singling out the technique in a scramble to blame corporations for poisoning our drinking water. While the fracking process uses chemicals, these claims are unfounded to say the least. The ingredients used in hydraulic fracturing include a small dose of chemicals (0.5%) mixed with water and sand (99.5%). Environmental and health studies have been conducted for years showing no linkage between fracking and drinking water contamination. In a 2004 comprehensive report conducted by EPA itself, federal researchers concluded:
In its review of incidents of drinking water well contamination believed to be associated with hydraulic fracturing, EPA found no confirmed cases that are linked to fracturing fluid injection into CBM wells or subsequent underground movement of fracturing fluids. Further, although thousands of CBM wells are fractured annually, EPA did not find confirmed evidence that drinking water wells have been contaminated by hydraulic fracturing fluid injection into CBM wells.
If the EPA study were not enough to vindicate the fracking process, common sense should. Natural gas formations are thousands of feet below drinking water aquifers so for contamination to occur the fracking solution would have to move through multiple layers of rocks. This would only happen however if the rocks were extremely porous, yet if this were the case the natural gas reservoir would have never existed in the first place. The natural gas would have leaked naturally to the surface over the course of millions of years.
As our officials in Washington monitor the upcoming EPA public hearing let’s hope the scare tactics and rhetoric don’t drowned out the facts and the preponderance of evidence supporting the fracking process. Regrettably as people across America are looking for jobs and struggling to put food on the table, the manufactured controversy surrounding fracking will likely continue. With any luck the unsubstantiated claims by the environmental lobby will not keep us from utilizing our clean natural gas resources or develop a vibrant energy economy here at home.
Economides is among America’s leading energy analysts. A consultant, educator, and PhD petroleum engineer, Economides has done technical and managerial work in more than 70 countries and is a professor at the University of Houston.
NOTE: Click HERE to view this column online.
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Graphic: What’s In Frac Fluids?