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Category — Fracking

Fracking boom threatens US water supplies

Valerie Brown

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Mixed message: a warning sign at a fracking site in Pennsylvania. Image: Ostroff Law via Wikimedia Commons

Campaigners in the US warn that fracking for oil or gas, which has transformed the country’s energy market, is seriously depleting or contaminating supplies of the most vital asset − water

Since the onset of the fracking boom almost a decade ago, every state in the US has been examining its geological resources in the hope of finding oil or gas it can access through this extraction method. Almost half the states are now producing at least some shale gas, with a few – Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Colorado, North Dakota – sitting on massive deposits.

Nearly half a million wells in the US were producing shale gas in 2012. But while many countries now seek to bolster their economies by following the American lead in exploiting this controversial new source of fossil fuels, campaigners in the US are warning of serious collateral damage to the environment: the depletion and contamination of vital water supplies.

The process of fracking, short for “hydraulic fracturing”, involves injecting water, sand and chemicals down vertical wells and along horizontal shafts − which can be several miles long − to open up small pores in the rock. This releases the methane for capture.

Fracking a well just once uses upwards of five million gallons of water, and each well can be fracked 18 times or more. Texas alone used an estimated 25 billion gallons of water for fracking in 2012, according to a recent report by Ceres, a not-for-profit group advising investors on climate change. [Read more →]

June 19, 2014   No Comments

How frack might worsen climate change

Alex Kirby

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A fracking operation in the US: Pollution of air and water is not the only downside. Image: Joshua Doubek via Wikimedia Commons

The arguments for and against fracking seem clear-cut. But it’s not that simple, and there is mounting evidence that exploiting shale gas may be neither necessary nor sensible.

As the international debate intensifies over the arguments for and against exploiting shale gas, the largest British nature conservation charity has objected to proposals to drill at two sites in Britain.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is concerned that fracking – hydraulic fracturing of underground rock – at a site in northern England close to an internationally important protected area for pink-footed geese and whooper swans could disturb the birds.

With the second site, in the south of England, the RSPB is objecting because it says the developers have not carried out an assessment of the environmental impact of the exploitation.

But significantly, the conservationists are raising a second objection as well: that “increasing oil and gas use will scupper our chances of meeting climate targets.”

Some supporters of shale exploitation say the cheaper and (relatively) cleaner energy it would produce could serve as a bridge to usher the UK into an era of secure supplies and low-carbon emissions. Others see shale not as a bridge but as a dead end. [Read more →]

August 17, 2013   No Comments