When we are aware of Earth's underground force, why do the authorities allow big businesses to make money from fracking?
Okay—I didn't know much about this process until my top commenter Alana brought the subject to my attention yesterday in a comment about what lies beneath our home. Some residents of New York State, which is rich in Marcellus Shale, want to join with Pennsylvania to take advantage of the law allowing fracking. So, I looked up the information.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is used to recover gas and oil from shale rock by drilling down into the earth. Equipment directs a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals at the rock to release the gas inside. This allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.
The process is carried out vertically or, more commonly, by drilling horizontally to the rock layer. This can create new pathways to release gas or can be used to extend existing channels.
The extensive use of fracking in the US has prompted environmental concerns plus worries about causing earth tremors.
Firstly, huge amounts of water must be transported to the fracking site, at significant environmental cost. Secondly, potentially carcinogenic chemicals may escape and contaminate groundwater around the site. The industry suggests pollution incidents are the results of bad practice.
On the plus side, US fracking has significantly boosted domestic oil production and driven down gas prices. It is estimated to have offered gas security to the US and Canada for about 100 years, and has presented an opportunity to generate electricity at half the CO2 emissions of coal. Source: BBC.
Two days ago, the US government reported that drilling causes earthquakes. Now, they say it!
The US Geological Survey issued a report about the last seven years. Geologically staid parts of the US are experiencing earthquakes again after a dormancy of millions of years. And they were triggered by drilling for oil and gas.
The drilling has been triggering earthquakes in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.
Over those seven years, scientists have speculated about whether this rise in earthquakes has anything to do with the water used in the fracking process.
For the most part, the report does not pin the blame on fracking itself, but on the associated process of injecting wastewater deep underground using injection wells.
Oklahoma averaged a handful of earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater from 1975 to 2008. Then, in 2009, the state experienced 20. In 2011, the number of earthquakes rose to over 60, and Oklahoma was hit by its largest earthquake in recorded history: magnitude 5.7. In 2014, the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma reached 585 in one year.
Of course, there's always another side to the dismal news. Not every well triggers an earthquake. In fact, a relatively small number of wells seem to have caused the majority of earthquakes. A report stated that out of the thousands of disposal wells in the central US, just four of them induced 20% of the seismicity from 2008 to 2013 in the central US.
I'm sure you'll draw your own conclusions. I, for one, would prefer business to invest in sustainable power like wind farms and solar panels, rather than cause havoc with the mighty forces beneath us.