Political and Economic
Thoughts on the
May 3, 2013
Political and Economic Thoughts on the Fracking Nation
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a horizontal drilling method that extracts natural gas from Marcellus shale formations thousands of feet below the surface. A high pressure water mixtures is pushed into a well, and pressure applied so the shale cracks and releases gas. The gases are then captured and refined. Since this high technology system has been developed, there has not been enough structured support, such as reports and surveys, to determine the safety of the environment and its inhabitants. Is fracking a sustainable practice that allows enough transparency for government systems to deem it safe? Given the amount of natural gas below the surface of the earth, it is practical to think drilling should continue, but at what costs? More can be done to establish this process viable for all concerned. We must ask- how does the lack of transparency shape society and the economy?
Political Aspects of Hydraulic Fracturing
Domestic reserves of natural gas beneath the earth’s surface are massive. Gas drilling booms have popped up in numerous states throughout the country-Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Pennsylvania, to name a few. Halliburton Corp. developed a way to mine horizontally. In 1990, boring parallel to the horizontal layers of shale exposed gas deposits, from which Halliburton reaped the profits. There is no denying that America needs alternative fuel sources, and this is one way to ease the demand on foreign oil. Ernest Moniz, director of MIT Energy Initiative, believes natural gas is a bridge to a low-carbon future until alternative sources such as wind, solar and geothermal become more viable. He states natural gas “could enable very substantial reductions in carbon emissions—as much as 50 percent by 2050” (Linda, May 2011). However, debate continues over the violations of methods used by the oil companies.
The Halliburton Loophole, or so it is termed, is another name for the 2005 Bush-Cheney Energy Policy Act which exempted gas and oil companies, or hydraulic fracturing, from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Basically, underground injection of fluids or propping agents was permitted in 2005 as long as it did not contain diesel fuel. This stipulation seemed to go amiss. A congressional investigation found that numerous oil and gas service companies were using tens of millions of gallons of diesel fuel in their water and chemical mixtures between the years 2005 and 2009. The committee found 32.2 million gallons were dumped into wells in 19 states. That’s nearly half the country exposed to the possibility of contaminated drinking water. Not only did these companies not pull permits to injection diesel fuel into the ground, they also failed to perform environmental reviews which are required by law. Furthermore, because environmental reviews were surreptitious, companies could not or would not provide information on whether diesel fuel was used in fracturing processes in or around underground drinking water sources, making it difficult to place responsibility on specific parties of interest where damages were incurred. Damages to organic farms, health, waterways, residential drinking water supplies, loss of animal herds are only a few examples of losses from fracturing (Fox, 2010) more evidence and research can be proven, fracturing continues. But the negative externalities brought on by fracking have a voice. Environmentalists, agricultural groups and citizens impacted by fracking have been, at minimum, heard.
The EPA initiated an ongoing study on fracturing with a final report due in 2014. Its research addresses five stages of the hydraulic fracturing water cycle.
References: Bennear, Lori. (Sep 5, 2011). Duke University. Fracking Externalities and the Coase Theorem. Retrieved from http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/loribennear/2011/09/05/fracking- externalities-and-the-coase-theorem.
Brown, Lester, Larsen, Janet, Fischlowitz-Roberts. (2002) Earth Policy Institute. Part 1 Assessing the Food Prospect: The Fast-Growing Water Deficit. Retrieved from
Davis, Charles. (2012) Review of Policy Research. The Politics of “Fracking”: regulating natural gas drilling practices in Colorado and Texas. Retrieved from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1766675.
Environmental Protection Agency. (Dec. 2102).EPA’s Study of Hydraulic Fracking and Its Potential Impact on Drinking Water. Retrieved from http://www2.epa.gov/hfstudy.
Fox, J. (2010). International WOW Company. Gasland. Seen on Netflix.
Loris, Nicolas. (August 28, 2012). The Heritage Foundation. Hydraulic Fracturing: critical for energy production, jobs and economic growth. Retrieved from http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/08/hydraulic-fracturing-critical-for- energy-production-jobs-and-economic-growth.
Marsa, Linda. (May, 2011). Discover Magazine. Fracking Nation. Retrieved from http://discovermagazine.com/2011/may/16-fracking-nation.
Sourcewatch. (April 29, 2013). Fracking. Retrieved from http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Frackin.
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