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 November 2014
Lonely people:
That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.
Mentors of seminarians and religious: That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.



Comments


More Green

More people have cell phones than access to toilets in 21st century Watch

Image of Just as vital as it is for developing countries to have food and water, there is a strident call for ending open defecation.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

World Toilet Day, established by the United Nations, is intended to draw attention to the fact that much of the world doesn't have access to proper sanitation. The issue is extremely relevant, with the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. It's estimated ... continue reading


California drought so bad, more residents forced to bathe out of buckets Watch

Image of Farmers feel they are competing with environmental concerns as meager water resources are allocated. This year, many farmers and communities received nothing.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While most Americans are digging out of an early freeze thanks to the "polar vortex" phenomenon, Californians are dealing with something of the opposite. While show piles in drifts and ice forms on the Great Lakes, more and more Californians are going without water. ... continue reading


Youngest human remains in North America discovered in Alaska Watch

Image of First discovered in 2013, it's the first time the find has been detailed by University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher Ben Potter.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The remains of a pair of infants near the Tanana River in Alaska has been found by an archaeology team. The discovery represents the youngest human remains ever found in northern North America. It's hoped the find offers a fresh glimpse into life in Interior ... continue reading


Is the Polar Vortex evidence of global warming? Actually, yes it is Watch

Image of Frigid arctic cold will cover most of the United States this week.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

America is about to be plunged into a deep freeze this week with the return of the dreaded "polar vortex." As many people don heavy coats and take up snow shovels, they grumble "what global warming?" It's an understandable sentiment, but it's also misplaced. The ... continue reading


Bison 'mummy' may yield secrets as to how species became extinct Watch

Image of The beast is an extinct ancestor of the modern bison that still roam the plains of North America and northern Europe.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The remains of an almost-perfectly preserved steppe bison, discovered by members of the Yukagir tribe in northern Siberia, is now being closely studied by researchers. The 9,000-year-old carcass may provide clues as to how the prehistoric animal went extinct. ... continue reading


It's time for Catholics to become an essential part of the global warming solution Watch

Image of The planet continues to warm with the past 30 years now the hottest in modern history.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The United Nations is reporting that as climate warms, poverty will grow. Meanwhile, the Church reminds that any solution to global warming must comply with the social doctrine of the Church and respect all life. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to the ... continue reading


The desolation of smog: Carbon emissions must be cut - and soon Watch

Image of A new report found ways to avoid dangerous global warming that are both available and affordable.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Unless carbon emissions are cut sharply and rapidly, climate change will inflict "severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts" on people and the natural world. A new report is the starkest assessment yet of man's stewardship of Planet Earth.  LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


California drought is only to get worse, scientists warn Watch

Image of The drought will impact all of the United States as California's Central Valley is the

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Californians are praying for rainfall in the coming winter months. Everyone from the farmer to the well-heeled in Los Angeles, and San Francisco are praying for precipitation for relief from the sunbaked summer skies. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "El ... continue reading


The mighty blue whale would be just a snack to this giant mega shark Watch

Image of The massive Megalodon shark could have preyed on baleen whales, now the largest animals in the world.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A new study from the Florida Museum of Natural History reveals that the ancient and giant shark Megalodon-which could reach sizes in upwards of 40 feet-may have preyed on early baleen whales. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The paper also suggests a new date ... continue reading


Dinosaur with freakishly big arms even more amazing than believed Watch

Image of The creature's name, Deinocheirus mirificus means unusual, horrible hands.

By Catholic Online - (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Paleontologists had long been mystified by the dinosaur known as "deinocheirus mirificus." Since the 1960s, only the huge arms of the prehistoric thunder lizard had been discovered. As more bits and pieces of the dinosaur have been brought to light, it appears ... 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, Revelation 15:1-4
1 And I saw in heaven another sign, great and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 7-8, 9
1 [Psalm] Sing a new song to Yahweh, for he has ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:12-19
12 'But before all this happens, you will be seized ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 26th, 2014 Image

St. John Berchmans
November 26: Eldest son of a shoemaker, John was born at Diest, Brabant. He ... 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