2. All Fracked Up

Are the environmental costs higher than the benefits of a domestic energy boom?

Dec 20, 2011
Outside Magazine
This year, fracking was all over the news.

This year, fracking was all over the news.   

Hydraulic fracturing, a means of natural gas extraction that you might know better by its street name, fracking, started gaining national attention in 2010, with the release of the documentary Gasland. But this year it gushed into headlines. Many landowners who've taken pay-outs in exchange for allowing fracking on their land (and others who just live nearby drill sites) say the practice, which entails drilling deep into the ground and forcing a mix of water and chemicals into the shale deposits to release the gas, has contaminated their water. Scientists have directly linked fracking with increased earthquake activity. The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing revising rules that regulate the oil and gas industry, including adding air pollution standards for fracking, but the bigger regulatory problem is that fracking ultimately falls under the control of state governments. Most recently, the EPA implicated fracking as the source of contaminated groundwater in Wyoming. On the other side of the debate is the promise of thousands of jobs in fracking hotspots from Pennsylvania to Colorado and beyond, plus it's framed as a way to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources. Look for the controversy over the safety of this extraction method to continue in months and years to come. Despite these concerns, the U.S. Energy Information Agency expects shale gas production to account for half of the total natural gas production in this country in the next 25 years.

Read more at The New Yorker and The New York Times

Filed To: Politics, Science