Five years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was commissioned by Congress to undertake a study on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on drinking water. This newer method of oil and gas extraction involves the pumping of highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals into underground rock formations.
Fracking has driven the boom in U.S. oil production and contributed to the steep drop in gasoline prices, but the environmental impacts of this relatively new technique are not well understood.
The EPA’s draft study—released in June to solicit input from advisers and the public—found that fracking has already contaminated drinking water, stating in the report:
“We found specific instances where one or more mechanisms led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells…
Approximately 6,800 sources of drinking water for public water systems were located within one mile of at least one hydraulically fractured well … These drinking water sources served more than 8.6 million people year-round in 2013…
Hydraulic fracturing can also affect drinking water resources outside the immediate vicinity of a hydraulically fractured well.”
Despite these findings, and EPA’s own admissions of “data limitations and uncertainties” as well as “the paucity of long-term systemic studies,” the agency stated in its conclusion that “there is no evidence fracking has led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”
Earlier this month, the Free Thought Project reported on a new study which has confirmed a controversial EPA draft report that was never fully completed: in one location, fracking chemicals contaminated a drinking water aquifer. Unlike previous reports which found potential contamination from methane seepage and wastewater elements, this study found the presence of chemicals employed to perform hydraulic fracturing in a potable aquifer.
“We documented impact to a water resource as a result of hydraulic fracturing for the first time,” scientist Dominic DiGiulio said in an interview with the Casper Star-Tribune.
The process of fracking has also greatly increased the number of earthquakes in regions which never experienced them. All the while, the state goes hand and hand with fracking companies, going so far as to steal privately owned land from individuals and hand it over to oil companies.
But, nothing illustrates the dangers of this process quite like seeing water erupt into flames.
The Condamine river in Queensland, Australia was used recently by Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham to demonstrate the adverse effects of fracking in the region.
“This gas is leaking out of the ground because of the fracking. They have thousands of gas wells around this river, around this site. They drill, they frack, but the gas isn’t just flowing up their gas wells, it’s coming through the ground,” he said, stressing that Origin Energy company, that operate the wells, “should be condemned for polluting one of our most important rivers.”
As RT reports, Calvin Tillman, a co-founder of ShaleTest and former mayor of Dish, Texas, echoed Buckingham’s concerns, saying the fracking companies’ claims that gas leaks out of natural reasons don’t stand up to scrutiny.
“It’s insane to think that the river would just catch on fire, that the water would just catch on fire because of this,” he said, referring to the Queensland river.
He argues that the industry, which portrays fracking as safe, should focus on tackling the actual problem of damage they cause instead of marketing their activities as environmental-friendly.
While governments fight internally on the issue of whether or not to ban fracking based on who’s shoving money into their pockets, the good news is that the market is responding in a much faster manner.
As the price of oil continues to fall and the future of a once invincible industry becomes uncertain, another situation is simultaneously taking place in the realm of energy and transportation. Technologies that threaten to make oil and gas obsolete are actually starting to become plausible and are being marketed to the masses for the first time.
Solar energy is on pace to become the dominant form of energy on the planet. Many experts have predicted that this shift will be occurring in the next few years, as solar technology becomes cheaper and more available to the average person. According to a recent estimate released by the International Energy Agency, solar will be the world’s primary source of energy by 2050.
Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance research unit recently published a report on the cost of electricity worldwide, and it shows that clean, renewable energy is becoming mainstream.
“The Bloomberg report says that the average cost of electricity generated by wind farms (on land, not offshore) throughout the world dropped to $83 per megawatt hour in the second half of this year. At the same time, electricity generated by solar panel farms fell to $122 per megawatt hour.
In comparison, the cost of electricity from coal and natural gas actually rose in the second half of this year. Coal-based electricity cost $75 per megawatt hour (up from $66 per megawatt hour) in North and South America, while natural gas-based electricity cost $82 in North and South America (up from $76 per megawatt hour).”
What this means is that wind energy is now economically competitive with fossil fuel energy, and solar is soon to follow. As clean energy technology and financing costs continue to drop, coal, oil, and natural gas will become increasingly marginalized.