hydraulic fracking risksA recent news story of a local community suffering from a natural gas well blow out has prompted us to put the spotlight on natural gas, which is frequently cited as a cleaner alternative to burning coal for power – which, nominally, it is.

However, development of natural gas by fracking introduces environmental costs which are worth taking a hard look at. Here are some facts about fracking:

  • The fracking process requires millions of gallons of drinking water, which is injected with chemicals and becomes a toxic waste product.
  • Fracking, like other forms of refining, has a land-use cost, and introduces thousands of heavy trucks and industrial buildings to otherwise undeveloped areas of Pennsylvania, New York, and other states.
  • By federal law, natural gas companies are not required to disclose the contents of additives in their fracking solution. However, on the industry website fracfocus.org, the industry readily admits to injecting petroleum distillates, ethylene glycol (the toxic form of antifreeze found in your car), acids and various alcohols (http://fracfocus.org/chemical-use/what-chemicals-are-used).
  • Opponents to fracking state that fracking solution includes other, more frightening ingredients including benzene and toulene (http://www.alternet.org/story/150450/there%27s_nothing_natural_about_natural_gas%E2%80%9C). Another concern is that fracking releases radioactive isotopes in sendimentary layers and allows them to rise into drinking water supplies. And did we mention earthquakes? http://www.earthworksaction.org/fracturingearthquakes.cfm
  • Little research has been done to confirm or deny that chemicals used in fracking will infiltrate drinking water. However, videos showing tap water lighting on fire are very real, and so are the devastating effects to communities where natural gas well spills have taken place.

Where We Stand

We do not see natural gas as a long-term solution to our nation’s energy problems. While cleaner burning than coal for electricity or oil for heat, it is nonetheless a limited fossil fuel, and the resources we’ll expend in developing natural gas infrastructure could alternatively be used to further efforts in a smarter, more distributed grid, powered by renewable energy inputs.

While traditional fuels are still a reality in our energy picture, we encourage a vision that doesn’t settle for “less bad” alternatives to coal and oil – but work towards a truly sustainable energy future.