Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fracking Stupid

There is a procedure being used in many areas around the US, and the world, called Hydraulic Fracturing. Also referred to as 'fracing' or 'fracking' for short. Put simply, this procedure uses high pressure to pump a liquid, often made up of water and various chemicals, to fracture the underground rock. This creates a high permeability conduit to allow otherwise difficult to access deposits of natural gas or oil to be extracted. It's being used heavily in many parts of the northeast region of the US to access natural gas deposits that would otherwise be difficult to extract.

Now think about this, a high pressure stream of water and various chemicals are injected deep underground to break up the rock strata. Is there anything about this that seems problematic? I know that when I first heard this described my initial thought was, "what about the ground water?" After all, we get much of our drinking water from underground aquifers. If we are pumping chemicals, some of which are known to be hazardous, into the ground and fracturing the surrounding rock, it's inevitable that this will contaminate ground water. There's no way to prevent it. I've seen film of well water emerging from a normal sink faucet that can be ignited by a simple cigarette lighter. Now you might think, that there are federal laws that protect our drinking water. Yes there are. However you might be surprised to know that the G.W.Bush administration and Congress passed legislation in 2005 exempting oil and gas companies from those pesky regulations.

Why are we and others around the world doing something that basic common sense says is blindingly stupid? Borderline suicidal, even? Because energy companies want to make more money. It doesn't matter if it's effective in extracting more natural gas and oil. It doesn't matter if this contributes any tiny bit to our energy independence. If the process is polluting our water supply, and there seems to be evidence beyond just having a functioning brain to indicate that it does, than who the frack cares if it's profitable or provides any energy independence?! It's a simple case of risk/benefit analysis. The risk to lives far outweighs any benefit that may be produced. And if an energy company's profits weren't involved or a politician's donations weren't involved we wouldn't even be having the discussion. You want a picture postcard of what's wrong with our corporate influenced system, then this is it!


7 comments:

  1. I keep wondering if we as a species have always been this short sighted or have just lost the plot? I do fear for this country because we have adopted this Charlie Sheen attitude of winning, defeat is not an option and that mere mortals cannot comprehend the genius behind our actions. Well I am a mere mortal and I do not understand. I don't understand why there are corporate exceptions to things such as clean air and water. Well, I do understand but I am hoping that I am wrong...I pray that we are not this greedy and foolish. But as Einstein said "the difference between genius and stupidity is that there is a limit to genius."

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  2. Azimov had it right when he said that "the two most abundant elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity". Let not your heart be troubled, humans will never know the limits of either genius or stupidity.

    There are no documented cases of fracking fluids flowing underground into drinking water. The Sierra Club has effectively endorsed domestic natural gas operations (based largely on the comparative low carbon emissions of burning natural gas), over-ruling their own Pennsylvania chapter. To be fair they are re-evaluating their position on fracking specifically.

    Most of these erroneous reports of contamination are coming from Pennsylvania. Anyone with a functioning brain who has driven the length of I-81 through Pennsylvania would observe the incredible devastation of the previous century of coal mining. In fact, in Pennsylvania there are hundreds of coal fires burning underground today. Some have been burning since the 60's. And then there are the toxic ponds left over from years of strip mining.

    Draw your own conclusions.

    Fracking? Or maybe just send money to the middle east, continue to support coal (which will never be clean or environmentally friendly in our lifetime), shut down deep water drilling in the the gulf (putting 100's of thousands out of work).

    No energy source if perfect. If you are really against energy production, then walk the walk. Put your fat ass on a bike to get to work, go to sleep when it gets dark, take your TV to a environmentally friendly recycling center, sell your car and grow your own food. And note that even then, when you fart, you are contributing to greenhouse gas!

    Fact is that the the majority of those that complain about the evils of energy production are the biggest consumers of energy (blogs, iphones, computers, etc.). That I'm afraid, matches perfectly with Einstein's definition of insanity, and this neurosis has become as abundant as hydrogen.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Azimov had it right when he said that "the two most abundant elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity". Let not your heart be troubled, humans will never know the limits of either genius or stupidity.

    There are no documented cases of fracking fluids flowing underground into drinking water. The Sierra Club has effectively endorsed domestic natural gas operations (based largely on the comparative low carbon emissions of burning natural gas), over-ruling their own Pennsylvania chapter. To be fair they are re-evaluating their position on fracking specifically.

    Most of these erroneous reports of contamination are coming from Pennsylvania. Anyone with a functioning brain who has driven the length of I-81 through Pennsylvania would observe the incredible devastation of the previous century of coal mining. In fact, in Pennsylvania there are hundreds of coal fires burning underground today. Some have been burning since the 60's. And then there are the toxic ponds left over from years of strip mining.

    Draw your own conclusions.

    Fracking? Or maybe just send money to the middle east, continue to support coal (which will never be clean or environmentally friendly in our lifetime), shut down deep water drilling in the the gulf (putting 100's of thousands out of work).

    No energy source if perfect. If you are really against energy production, then walk the walk. Put your fat ass on a bike to get to work, go to sleep when it gets dark, take your TV to a environmentally friendly recycling center, sell your car and grow your own food. And note that even then, when you fart, you are contributing to greenhouse gas!

    Fact is that the the majority of those that complain about the evils of energy production are the biggest consumers of energy (blogs, iphones, computers, etc.). That I'm afraid, matches perfectly with Einstein's definition of insanity, and this neurosis has become as abundant as hydrogen.

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  4. Reply to Anonymous from March 14th above:

    Actually it was Harlan Ellison who commented on hydrogen and stupidity, but that's neither here nor there.

    I'm sure it was unintended, but your reminder about the ravages of coal production, especially underground coal fires, actually supports my concern. I'm sure when coal mining was ramping up that many voices were raised about the dangers involved, yet it wasn't till things had gone wrong a few times before anyone started to really pay attention and begin to take precautions. There is rarely irrefutable evidence until something has gone horribly wrong at least once, and often not till it's happened quite a few times. And with 'Fracking', it puts at risk our drinking water. One of the few things humans cannot live without. Why risk it with a procedure that, even on the surface, sounds risky? This isn't particle physics. You don't need a PHD to know that rock doesn't fracture in perfectly predictable ways or that liquids don't always stay where you put them. And well water is NOT hermetically isolated from contaminants. Why take the risk? Drinking water for half of Pennsylvania could be compromised by the time enough 'irrefutable' evidence is collected. Then what? History is full of instances where dire warnings were ignored till it was too late.

    As to the last parts of your post . . . please do me the favor of not going off on some wild tangent of silly exaggeration. At NO point did I mention anything other than Hydraulic Fracturing. At NO point did I declare myself in opposition to all energy production. Tirades like that just undermine anything else you have to say.

    Yes, it's true, I do use a good deal of technology. Partly by choice and partly as it's my job. But I turn them off when I'm done. I have a programable thermostat and turn off lights when I don't need them. I have a hybrid car and recycle far more than I throw away. Oh, and by the way, your Einstein quote could apply quite well to the human tendency to ignore inconvenient facts over and over.

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  5. And your ass isn't at all fat. :)

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  6. i have to say that anon of march 14th made some good points...like commenting on the devastating effects of our ever growing quest for energy. what we have done, and how we have done it...well, let's just say that we have a lot to learn in meeting our needs. but to say that a new way...fracking in this case...is a good choice simply because the devastation hasn't manifested yet is simply shortsighted.
    since we know that fossil fuel is not a renewable source, we need to either turn back the clock as march14th anon suggests (c'mon not going to happen) or we get smart and find some sensible ways to solve our expansive energy appetite.
    when we can move past our need for immediate solutions and learn to slow down long enough to figure out all angles, then maybe we will make decisions that address all facets of the problem.
    i think the blog author is particularly good at seeing issues and obstacles in a way that does just that.

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