In spite of very vocal objections to hydraulic fracturing from environmentalists, emerging science and financial numbers indicate that fracking isn’t nearly as harmful as its opponents would have you believe.
It’s really a matter of perspective, when it comes down to it. Most of us don’t stop to think that the United States built its industrial foundation on energy practices that were extremely harmful to the environment. Not so long ago, several major cities in the country had an air quality on par with Beijing. As new, more responsible technology — like hydraulic fracturing — has become available, the country has naturally gravitated towards them.
Environmentalists are love to try and explain that fracking can cause severe damage to the environment, but they fail to acknowledge that the increased popularity of natural gas mining has actually worked to supplant coal extraction, a method of energy production that’s infinitely more harmful to the environment than hydraulic fracturing. As a matter of fact, the result of that shift has seen the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions drop by more than a million tons since 2007. That increase in air quality is a direct result of the increased reliance on fracking.
Experts also agree that the increased production in the oil and gas industry might also lead the country towards a self-sustaining energy platform that could eventually make the country a profit as we turn into a net exporter of natural gas. What’s more, energy self-reliance may also allow the United States to adopt a slightly more objective stance in international affairs.
The only remaining concern, of course, is the popular belief that fracking projects have a destructive impact on the environment. Research has attempted on countless occasions to draw a connection between water contamination or earthquakes and the practice. And while the results of those reports rarely find fracking to be a proper culprit, the accusations are enough to give the practice a bad name.
In addition to a recent EPA study that found little to no connection between fracking and groundwater contamination, a recent study from the University of Texas at Arlington published results that indicate the extraction process isn’t harmful in and of itself; where things go wrong is when companies put in place sloppy drilling methods. In other words, when hydraulic fracturing is handled responsibly, the environmental impacts are minimal (if notable).
There are still several strides to be made in the way we engage in hydraulic fracturing, but you can bet oil and gas companies are working overtime to insure those hurdles are leapt. In the meantime, fracking is the safest way to extract shale from the earth and provide the rest of us with the fuel we need to go about our daily lives.