According to Inside Climate News, as of 2015, 22 states are now allowing hydraulic fracturing (fracking) wells to be drilled. The states that recently began fracking include California, New York, Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky; more fracking wells are now in the process of being approved by multiple states throughout the US. To further show how fast fracking is rapidly expanding, the Environment of America (EOA) released a book in 2013 containing data and information of Fracking from 2005–2012. In 2012, EOA reported that only 17 states were drilling fracking wells and that in the year 2012 a total of 22,326 fracking wells were drilled.
An important note is that fracking is not the same as a conventional oil well drilling. Conventional oil wells consist of drilling a couple hundred feet into the ground and only extracts oils and gases in the immediate surrounding area of the well. Whereas, fracking consists of drilling thousands of feet into the ground, each fracking well drilling about an average of 5,300 feet deep according to Chesapeake Energy.Once the well is drilled deep enough a mixture of water sand and various chemicals is blasted into the well at high pressure which then fractures the rocks releasing oil and gases into the drilled well. Fracking has been around for many decades now, dating back as early as 1947. However, as technology for fracking has significantly increased in past years, allowing access to deep rock formations under ground, oil and gas companies are resorting to fracking as opposed to conventional oil drilling.
Fracking is a current controversial issue: there are many health and environmental concerns, as well as economic benefits from fracking. Those that support fracking claim that fracking makes room for a bigger job market in the oil industry. According to Americas Energy Economy the industry had 2.1 million jobs in 2012, claiming to raise up to as many as 3.9 million by 2025. Those in favor fracking also claim that it has lowered expenses on gas over the years. Brookings reports that in “between 2007–2013 consumer gas bills dropped by 13 billion per year as a result of increased fracking”.
Although fracking does present some economic benefits there are many environmental hazards that outweigh them. Fracking wastes and contaminates water and brings health hazards to residents near fracking wells from the chemicals that are used. EOA reports that in 2012 that an estimate of 280 million gallons of waste water was produced from all fracking wells in ten out of the 17 states that allowed fracking at the time.
Another thing that raises concerns towards fracking is that it is poorly regulated. Big oil lobbyists paid their way into being exempt from most environmental regulations. According to Global Research, oil companies are exempt from the following: Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act [RCRA], Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act [CERCLA], Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act, and National Environmental Policy Act.
With all these concerns that fracking raises I believe that fracking should be regulated. I seek to answer “What actions need to be taken in order to regulate fracking? Are the economic benefits worth the environmental damage? Are there alternative ways to acquire oil without fracking?” In my future blogs I will further investigate the health risks that fracking brings. I will talk about reported cases such as illegal dumping and oil spills and illness brought to residents near fracking wells.