Monday, November 26, 2012

Fracking: Your Water is Safe, Unless...

The frenzy to find new sources of fossil fuels has led to a new method of natural gas production: hydraulic fracturing (also called hydro-fracking or just fracking). This method is highly controversial, and has been blamed for numerous instances of water contamination. There have even been documented cases of flammable water, apparently caused by nearby fracking operations. While the gas companies deny any harmful effects of fracking, environmentalists claim that the drilling method has serious health risks. The chemical mixture that is pumped into the ground during fracking is highly toxic. After fracking, if it does not leech into nearby water supplies, the mixture gets dumped in a water containment pit where it sits as a lasting source of contamination.

The accusations against the hydro-fracking industry might not be so alarming if the industry was properly regulated. Incredibly, Congress voted in 2005 to excempt fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act. This loophole was proposed by none other than Dick Cheney, then the Vice president and former CEO of Halliburton. It's no coincidence, undoubtedly, that Halliburton is involved in the natural gas drilling industry. Just like the two wars started in the Bush era, this excemption was a way for Cheney to boost the bottom line of his corporation.

Public anger against the growth of hydro-fracking operations has been widespread. At the same time, the marketing departments of the fracking companies are blasting the airwaves with ads that praise fracking as the solution to our energy problems. Politicians refer to fracking as a green way of achieving energy independence, with less carbon emissions than coal or oil and a large supply of domestic reserves. With mounting economic and political pressure for increased energy production, it seems likely that the health and safety concerns about fracking will swept under the rug for now. Time will tell whether or not the benefits of this practice are worth the risks.

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