Every day we use our stoves, heaters, lamps, and cars without giving any of them a thought. All these ordinary things share one common theme: their dependence on natural gas. Natural gas is human kind’s greatest strength and weakness all in one. It is an extremely efficient way of powering our lives but, we are enormously dependent on a dwindling supply of energy. Can you remember the last time you went a week without driving? Or even a day? We use this source of energy to our advantage on the daily without questioning all the harm it causes. For example, how do we pull this source out of the earth? Well, that would be a volatile method called fracking. Fracking is a deplorable way of generating energy, despite the high demand of natural gas; it is posing a major threat to both humans and the environment and needs to be better regulated by public health laws.
It’s Our Kryptonite
Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside, a system known as hydraulic fracturing. During the hydraulic fracturing of a well, water is mixed with various chemicals to make a toxic brew called frack fluid. Many of these chemicals have been documented to have perilous health effects at small levels of exposure. An even worse threat posed by fracking on human health is the contamination of drinking water wells, vital sources of water for many rural communities. According to a Duke study examining sites in New York and Pennsylvania, major fracking states, water wells half a mile from drilling operations were polluted by methane, a chemical that can seep into houses and build up to explosive levels. Fracking is guilty of polluting the air with volatile chemicals such as benzene, ground level ozone, nitrogen oxides, and formaldehyde. Exposure to these contaminators is known to cause short-term illness, cancer, organ damage, nervous system disorders and birth defects or even death. There is clearly an issue if something that benefits us so greatly is also acting as our kryptonite.
Distressing Mother Nature
Apart from the incredible damage it does on our health, fracking does quite a number on the environment. Although it is rare, wastewater produced by wells that were hydraulic fractured can induce earthquakes when it is injected into deep wastewater wells. This phenomenon can have grave repercussions on the environment. Fracking is also known to sped up the process of climate change. Natural gas is mostly methane, which has strong impacts on the development of the environment. Leakages during fracking release unprecedented rates of methane into the atmosphere which causes accelerated climate change, bringing us closer to our impending doom. In addition, fracking is hugely imprudent when it comes to water. Hydraulic fracturing uses between 1.2 and 3.5 million gallons of water per well, and much of it comes back contaminated. This is a ginormous waste of water, especially in our society today that promotes the conservation of such a vital resource.
Fracking is also dangerous in the sense that its rules and regulations are consistently overlooked. The environment is not as protected as it should be because current US laws are full of loopholes. There is an exception to the Safe Water Drinking Act for toxic chemicals injected into wells during hydraulic fracturing. There is an exception to the Clean Water Act that permits temporarily stored waste water from fracking facilities to go untreated. These exceptions benefit big businesses but put Mother Earth in danger. The Obama administration attempted to tighten rules on fracking, but the Trump administration quickly clapped back. They found the increased restrictions unnecessary and aimed to promote domestic production of fossil fuels despite all the associated perils. Demand for natural gas is rising worldwide, and the United States is a growing supplier of liquefied natural gas; presently, this is being exploited for economic gain. At a minimum, America must repeal of oil and gas exemptions from the Safe Drinking Water Act. European nations such as France, Germany, Ireland, Scotland have realized the risks of fracking despite their need for natural gas, and already banned fracking in their border. Instead of using it to its monetary advantage, America needs to follow suit and outlaw fracking.
We should be turning to alternative energy sources, as this is the twenty-first century after all. Natural gas is nonrenewable and therefore won’t last forever; it will run out eventually and when it does, we will be grossly underprepared. Alternative energy sources are being developed but not at the rate they should be. We should be promoting the use of renewable sources rather than continuing to endorse natural gas which is not only limited but also dangerous to extract. Hydro-power is one of the oldest renewable sources of energy, used thousands of years ago to turn paddle wheels to help grind grain. This form of energy used to be so successful, yet it only accounted for 7.5% of total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation? We should work on turning back to this previously successful energy alternative. Solar energy is another option. The sun is abundant and harnessing it is cost-efficient in the long-term. Although storage of solar energy is expensive and associated with the emission of greenhouse gasses, these are issues that we could spend our time and money on resolving rather than continuing to pursue natural gas. All these alternatives are clean, limitless ways to create the energy that powers our lives.
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