1. Hydraulic Fracturing (Hydrofracking): The Risks and Rewards of the Controversial Drilling Technique
And the debate has been loud, as would be expected when enough natural gas to satisfy US demand for at least a decade is set against possible harm to the water supply for almost 10 million people in one of the world capitals of media, finance, and law.
The real risk is pollution. Hydraulic fracturing can be done using nothing but pure water and clean sand—in fact, those are the substances used for opening up drinking water wells. However, for a number of reasons, including cost, availability, and other desired properties, a wide variety of other substances are also used, including:
• Diesel fuel (used because it’s more effective at carrying the proppant into fissures than water), which contains benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, and naphthalene.
• Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
• Ethylene glycol.
• Glycol ethers.
• Hydrochloric acid.
• Sodium hydroxide.
These chemicals are present in concentrations many times harmful levels.
While much of the fracturing fluid is pumped out after doing its job (and it has to be pumped out, to clear the way for oil or gas), it’s impossible to get it all. Studies show that 20–40 percent of the fluid will remain underground.
(Note: the study was commissioned in the context of using hydraulic fracturing to extract methane from coal seams; technically, the study’s findings only apply to that one subset of hydraulic fracturing.)
The EPA that found no risk from hydraulic fracturing was the Bush–Cheney EPA, and Bush and Cheney were advocates of drilling and fossil fuels.
According to public interest and advocacy group Earthworks, communities in at least six states (AL, CO, NM, VA, WV, WY) have reported changes...