Pros and Cons of Fracking

Updated on November 21, 2016
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Since graduating university, Paul has worked as a bookseller, librarian, and educator. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.

Fracking well head where fluids are injected into the ground.  A necessary part of the process, anti-fracking groups argue that the chemical cocktail, which contains acids, detergents and poisons may seep into drinking water.
Fracking well head where fluids are injected into the ground. A necessary part of the process, anti-fracking groups argue that the chemical cocktail, which contains acids, detergents and poisons may seep into drinking water. | Source

Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" as it is commonly called, is a method for accessing reserves of shale gas, an energy resource.

It entails drilling thousands of feet below the surface of the earth and pumping into the well millions of gallons of water and chemical additives at high pressure.

  • Supporters of the fracking boom argue that the process is safe. The financial benefits, as well as the potential for energy independence that fracking can bring massively outweigh any downsides. Pro-frackers believe that the benefits are so overwhelming, the industry should be supported at every level.
  • Opposition to fracking has been growing in recent times and comes mainly from green and environmental groups. They argue that fracking has dangers attached and it has not been adequately evaluated. Associated dangers include the risk of water contamination and earthquakes. Anti-frackers believe that we should be focusing on renewable sources of energy, such as wind, solar, and biomass instead.

Below in more detail are the arguments that people use in regard to the advantages and disadvantages of fracking, presented in a pros and cons list format.

Fracking is doable if there's full disclosure of all chemicals used. Secondly, science dictates the policy rather than politics. Third, there's collaboration between environmental groups and the natural gas industry.

— Bill Richardson
Water tanks preparing for hydraulic fracturing. Fracking requires millions of gallons of water to be pumped into the well at high pressure, along with chemical additives.  Anti-frackers believe that the chemicals might also pollute drinking water.
Water tanks preparing for hydraulic fracturing. Fracking requires millions of gallons of water to be pumped into the well at high pressure, along with chemical additives. Anti-frackers believe that the chemicals might also pollute drinking water. | Source

In Arkansas, the United States Geological Survey conducted a survey of 127 private or domestic [water] wells in an area that has been highly developed. Over 4,000 production [natural gas] wells have been put in this area over the last 6 to 8 years, and no damage done to the water in those areas.

— Drew Cobbs, executive director of the Maryland Petroleum Council

Pros of Fracking

  • The potential for fracking is huge. The United States Department of Energy has estimated that the number of recoverable barrels of shale gas is about 1.8 trillion. In short, there may well be enough world reserves to keep industrialized countries running for centuries.
  • Some countries (for example, the USA) will not only be able to attain full energy self-sufficiency through fracking, but become net exporters too. As well as the financial savings, reliance on countries like Venezuela and the increasingly unstable Middle East for oil imports will no longer be necessary. Western dependence on natural gas supplies from an increasingly hostile Russia, which uses supplies for political leverage, will also no longer be needed.
  • The argument that fracking can cause water contamination is unproven. Water is unlikely to be affected because drilling goes far below the water table. Drilling for oil and gas has been going on for decades without any major problems.
  • Replacing coal power plants with natural gas ones could aid the environment, by helping to reduce reduce greenhouse emissions by over 50 percent.
  • The fracking industry creates lots and lots of much needed jobs. In the US alone, the industry already employs over 1.2 million workers.
  • Renewable energy technology is currently in its infancy. Wind, water, and solar all hold great potential for garnering energy, but so far we are unable to fully harness it. Fracking buys more time for the development of technologies to more efficiently access and store these alternative energy sources.

A fracturing operation in progress at the Bakken Formation in North Dakota.  American proponents of fracking argue that it gives the US a very real prospect of energy self-sufficiency in the near future, and that concerns and fears are overstated.
A fracturing operation in progress at the Bakken Formation in North Dakota. American proponents of fracking argue that it gives the US a very real prospect of energy self-sufficiency in the near future, and that concerns and fears are overstated. | Source

“By the time the frackers are done in the other states our water will be worth more than oil.”

— Farid Khavari
Anti-fracking poster in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Álava, Spain, October 2012.  Critics of fracking's concerns include water contamination, earthquakes, greenhouse gases, disruption to locals, and general environmental damage.
Anti-fracking poster in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Álava, Spain, October 2012. Critics of fracking's concerns include water contamination, earthquakes, greenhouse gases, disruption to locals, and general environmental damage. | Source

Cons of Fracking

  • Numerous fracking incidents have been documented, that would appear to show that chemicals used in the process have contaminated the local groundwater.
  • The fracking process also requires massive amounts of water, millions of gallons, much of which is never recovered.
  • Fracking companies around the world often don't have to declare what chemicals they are using. In the USA, for example, the industry is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act of 2005, allowing them to keep the chemicals used in the process secret from the public.
  • There is evidence both in the US and elsewhere around the world that fracking can trigger earthquakes.
  • The carbon footprint of shale gas is twenty percent greater than coal. The problem being methane gas, which is a Greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
  • The industry causes severe disruption and damage to the local area. The huge amounts of water needed for the process, for instance, usually needs to be transported to well sites by heavy trucks, turning rural areas of natural beauty into industrial highways. Fracking is also generally carried out both day and night, creating noise and light pollution for local inhabitants.
  • Some research has suggested that fracking wells release compounds into the air, including benzene, which is a known carcinogen. Other compounds released by the fracking process have been linked with birth defects, neurological problems, and blood disorders.

Halliburton fracking operation in the Bakken Formation, North Dakota, USA.  Anti-frackers argue that the industry is disruptive and harmful to the areas that they work in.  In some circumstances, the process can even cause earthquakes, they argue.
Halliburton fracking operation in the Bakken Formation, North Dakota, USA. Anti-frackers argue that the industry is disruptive and harmful to the areas that they work in. In some circumstances, the process can even cause earthquakes, they argue. | Source

There's been everything from earthquakes triggered from the wastewater to deforestration, incredible truck traffic 'cause they have to truck in the clean water, truck out the dirty water, there's just a number of different impacts including methane that's released during the fracking-drilling process and piping of the gas through pipelines. There've been a lot of questions that haven't been answered.

— Mike Tidwell of Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Your Opinion on Fracking

Are you in favor of fracking?

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Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Paul Goodman

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        Dennis L. Page 3 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

        I live in the Southern Tier of New York State along the Pennsylvania border. Across state lines fracking is going full throttle, but with it are a lot of problems. Wells for drinking water have, in fact, been contaminated and toxic spills happen polluting the ground and waterways. What people don't realize is that the influx of drillers and the impact they have on a small town community aren't necessarily a positive. Rents soar to astronomical amounts and locals can no longer afford to live in the towns they called home. Roadways are a broken up mess from the heavy truck traffic. Crime and DWI arrests go up. Noise pollution from drilling is a constant. As you can see, I am against hydraulic fracturing.

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