Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

1/8/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Fracking holods great promise, but is it safe?

Has the devil offered a bargain? Fracking, the controversial practice of using high-pressure water and chemicals to release energy trapped miles beneath the surface has the singular potential to make the U.S. energy independent within 10 years. America could produce more energy than Saudi Arabia, but at what cost?

This viral image of flaming tap water is part of the debate about whether fracking is worth the cost.

This viral image of flaming tap water is part of the debate about whether fracking is worth the cost.

Highlights

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/8/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: Fracking, oil, gas, energy, independence, future, harms, danger, water, pollution, jobs, economy, fossil fuels


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - American dependence on foreign oil is one of the problems facing the United States. If not for the oil demands of the west, the Middle East would be a sleepy backwater, and there would be little economic incentive to go to war or even be involved in the region.

An energy independent America is a laudable goal. Affordable fuel for cars and homes, cheaper raw materials for manufacturing, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of new jobs could put more Americans to work than at any time in the past two generations.

Exporting our energy could bring billions, if not trillions into our economy, reducing our deficit and if wisely spent, rebuilding America into the world's most technologically advanced, clean and sophisticated societies.

We would be number one again, but is this just the devil whispering in our ear?

The costs of fracking are unknown. Industry leaders say it's negligible, that fracking is harmless. It's energy we can now obtain, thanks to advances in technology. It's jobs for Americans and food on our plates. It's a bright new dawn for America.

At the same time, detractors say the real impacts are unknown. Studies have been hampered by interference from politicians and drillers. Environmentalists and concerned citizens say that fracking consumes and contaminates water, pollutes the air, and even causes earthquakes.

Then, there's the moral question if the likely increased consumption of fossil fuels is the direction our nation ought to move in the first place. Shouldn't we be weaning ourselves from fossil fuels, rather than doubling down?

It is a complex question that goes well beyond out technical capabilities. It's an economic question and an ethical one. Should we leave these reserves untapped when so many Americans need work? Should we continue to remain involved in foreign politics when we can finally escape Middle Eastern quagmires? Should we leave billions on the table? Or should we sacrifice more of our environment on these altars?

Before we can answer these questions, we need to know the facts, and those are difficult to come by, since the debate over fracking is hyper-charged with emotion and politics.

The reason this debate comes to the fore is because it has been acknowledged that fracking is now capable of releasing massive amounts of pent-up energy from shale reserves in the U.S. Once harvested, this energy would make the United States the world's largest petroleum producer, even greater than Saudi Arabia. The United States could export energy rather than import it. Most importantly, the timetable is less than a decade.

This has legions on both sides, drawing lines for a battle that has implications far beyond the wells we might drill.

The first problem stems from the lack of solid scientific information on the practice of fracking. Investigators have repeatedly alleged that political and private interference has prevented them from gathering proper data required to complete their assessments. Without those assessments, it becomes more a matter of conjecture than anything, if fracking is harmful.

Fracking involves drilling deep beneath the Earth's surface, much deeper than many people suppose. Drills grind their way deep beneath the water table and plunge so deep, that there should be no risk to water or anything at or near the surface. Once in place, high-pressure steam and chemicals are injected into the rocks causing them to fracture and release natural gas and oil where they can be extracted to the surface for processing and use.

Initial opposition to this practice came from people concerned about their water supplies. Concern began to grow in areas where fracking was being practiced affected people insisted their water was being contaminated by the injected chemicals.

Subsequent studies have in fact revealed that occasional leaks do occur, especially in cases where the wells have not been properly drilled.

Fracking also demands the use of large quantities of water. Extracting gas from a single well could require an average of five million gallons of water. This will return about 4 billion cubic feet of gas, although these figures will vary based on a number of factors.

While fracking does not always contaminate water, it still consumes mass quantities of it. Freshwater is a limited quantity and any water used for fracking will be unavailable for human use, potentially forever. It's a significant trade, particularly in regions beset by drought.

In addition to consuming water and injecting chemicals which can sometimes leak into water supplies, fracking can also release methane and other greenhouse gasses into the air. Typically, this is also a result of mistake, but as with all such projects, mistakes do happen. Consider the infamous BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Fracking has also been shown to cause earthquakes, although minor ones, in both the U.S. and UK.  Some European countries, concerned about these environmental impacts have even banned fracking altogether.

Finally, the cheapening of fossil fuels will naturally encourage their use and divert urgency and capital away from renewable research, which will eventually be needed no matter what course the nation takes. Although, the wealth extracted via fracking could be so great that ample revenues could be earmarked via legislation to ensure renewable research continues apace.

There are a number of scientific and ethical questions that need to be resolved before the nation begins to pursue fracking as an energy solution.

It must first be determined if the harms caused by fracking are truly significant. If they are significant, then it must be decided if they are worth the returns, which admittedly are substantial. However, if the harms are so great as to make the practice unethical, then no matter what the promise is, we must reject it.

A deal with the devil is never worth it, no matter how rich and sweet is sounds.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for September 2014
Mentally disabled:
That the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life.
Service to the poor: That Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering.



Comments


More Green

Half the world's animals went extinct over past 40 years Watch

Image of Northern lapwings, pictured, an once-familiar sight on British farmlands have fallen 60 percent and grey partridges have halved in number.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The news for the Animal Kingdom is uniformly grim: Half of the world's animals went extinct over the past 40 years, all of it due to the fault of humanity. D4estruction of habitat, unlawful hunting and the destruction of the environment has sent countless ... continue reading


A new weapon in the war against Climate Change. How moderates and radicals are joining forces Watch

Image of More militant environmentalism is being fazed out as radicals and moderates band together and turn to civil disobedience as an effective weapon.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

New York saw the largest climate-related march ever, where hundreds of thousands participated before the United Nations held a summit on climate change. The next day, hundreds were arrested in Manhattan as part of a demonstration against Wall Street, which blames ... continue reading


New hope for Monarch butterfly migration: butterflies seen entering Mexico Watch

Image of Butterflies have been sighted in the northern border state of Coahuila. This is slightly earlier than their usual arrival time when they come back in October from the United States and Canada, where they spend the summer.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Much dismay surrounded the scarcity of Monarch butterflies last year. The colorful black-and-orange creatures had dropped to their lowest level in 2013. There is new hope, Monarch butterflies have been seen entering Mexico earlier than usual, which foretells ... continue reading


Mystery video: Remains of an ancient lizard - or just a rock? Watch

Image of Several professors and experts in paleontology have expressed their skepticism that the find is genuine, and say it might be a hoax.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Experts are still unable to identify exactly what the mystery crocodile-style object found buried in a Siberian river after a week of speculation. Fishermen supposedly bumped into the head of the "rock" last week. It has been confirmed by scientists to be the ... continue reading


Greenhouse gas emissions predicted to hit historic highs Watch

Image of Smog in China, a nation which produces more than 10 billion tons of greenhouse gas, more than that of the U.S. and Europe combined.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A recently released study shows that greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil-fuel fuels and cement production will reach a record high this year, fueled primarily by rapid growth in Chinese industries. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Global ... continue reading


100,000 march to stop climate change in New York Watch

Image of A woman protests the development of the tar sands pipeline through the United States.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Tens of thousands gathered in the streets of New York on September 22, as part of an international day of protest on climate change, and event organizers predicted it was the largest protest about the issue in five years. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


Scientists call upon Pope Francis to take the lead on climate change Watch

Image of Pope Francis and the Catholic Church could change attitudes on an important topic.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Historically, the Catholic Church has been accused of being anti-science. This is a lie. The Catholic Church is pro-truth and in cases where science was not yet established, the Church has demurred or cautioned. Yet in cases where the science is established, the Church ... continue reading


Sunday's global warming march displays everything that's wrong with global warming activism Watch

Image of Displays like this are both absurd and counterproductive. The discussion about global warming needs to move from political rhetoric to one informed by ethics and moral guidance.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

This Sunday, thousands of climate activists will march on the streets of New York, in an effort to rekindle due concern over the environment. While the cause appears noble, the entire effort may be off to a doomed start. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This Sunday, ... continue reading


Just in time for Halloween! 'Werewolf' cat enchanting fanciers Watch

Image of The cats' sickly appearance is only skin deep. Aside from the patchy hair that makes them notable, the first few generations of Lykoi cats seem rather healthy thus far.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Gaining in popularity among cat fanciers and breeders, the "Lykoi" cat is most peculiar looking. Many would instantly assume the patchy critter is inflicted with a sort of mange. The "Lykoi" cat, or "werewolf" cat is in fact carefully raised for its unusual ... continue reading


Antarctic sea ice reaches record levels and why that's bad Watch

Image of Antarctic sea ice continues to expand by about 1.5 percent coverage every year. This trend has continued since 1979 and it thought to be driven by global warming.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Research ships and other vessels traveling through Antarctic waters will have to be very careful this year because Antarctic ice has expanded rapidly, increasing the hazard to ships. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - An incredible quantity of sea ice has formed ... continue reading


All Green News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Exodus 23:20-23
20 'Look, I am sending an angel to precede you, to ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 91:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 10-11
1 You who live in the secret place of Elyon, spend ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 18:1-5, 10
1 At this time the disciples came to Jesus and said, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 2nd, 2014 Image

St. Leger
October 2: Leger was raised at the court of King Clotaire II and by his ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter