Lauren Aragon | October 16, 2014

Debunking big fracking myths

Lauren Aragon

The cleverly named “Frackdown” gathering held at the capitol October 10 was nothing more than a coalition of groups ignoring science and pushing for greater dependence on foreign energy. They hope to shut down oil and gas production in Oklahoma and America, at the cost of billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

According to the Energy Information Administration, shale gas will soon count for almost half of the natural gas produced in the United States by 2035. Yet, with such promise of growth, investment, and job creation, there remain fears about hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling (techniques used to reach shale oil and gas). The four primary myths used by fracking opponents to create paranoia and fear can be easily debunked.

Myth 1: Fracking is new
Developed more than 60 years ago, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) involves pumping chemically treated water and sand into deep shale formations. The fluid slightly widens existing cracks deep in the earth, freeing existing hydrocarbon resources previously inaccessible. Fracking has been used in Oklahoma safely for more than 60 years.

Myth 2: Fracking is bad for the environment
The truth is that hydraulic fracturing has exponentially increased our available reserves of natural gas, leading to large decreases in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. This Oklahoma-led American energy renaissance is creating a wealth of domestically produced energy for both the U.S. and for export. Due to cutting edge technology and drilling techniques, this energy (including various sources) is often produced in more environmentally friendly ways than in most other countries. Additionally, energy infrastructure in the United States is more efficient than elsewhere, helping decrease energy waste. The fact is that as the United States becomes more energy independent, the environment benefits.

Myth 3: Fracking will destroy our water resources
Oklahoma already has more than 10,000 oil and gas injection wells. Whereas fracking is done at depths of over 7,000 feet, water tables are just a few hundred feet below the surface with solid rock separating these layers. Such large separations between aquifers and fracking safeguard our water resources. Additionally, all fracking wells are required to be built with layers of cement casing to protect all water resources from contamination by the wells. Many companies involved in fracking have also adopted recycling methods to reuse fracking liquids in other wells, saving water while further protecting existing water tables from depletion. Fracking’s strong safety record is helped by numerous state regulations on water disposal methods for fracking wastewater. The Oklahoma Corporation Commissions regulates the oil and gas industry and requires operators to track the water they inject daily. According to an MIT Future of Natural Gas Study, analyzing the causes of 43 reported environmental incidents, none of the accidents were the result of the “direct invasion of shallow water zones by fracture fluids during the fracturing process.”

Myth 4: Fracking releases dangerous methane
Rising methane gas in water lines has been wrongly attributed to fracking for several years. The lighting on fire of tap water shown in the anti-energy documentary Gasland, which was blamed on fracking, is a rare incidence of methane rising through the water pipes. State officials called to investigate such “flammable water” actually blame the drilling of water wells too close to large pockets of methane naturally found in the ground as the cause of such problems. There have been very few actual accidents since fracking began more than 60 years ago. Accidental intrusions into water tables long ago became preventable as technology improved and companies began using stronger cement and casings.

Oil and gas is reinvigorating America’s economy; destroying it would be counterproductive and selfish. Even so, myths and wild accusations against fracking will no doubt continue. Those opposed to fracking and energy production in the United States aren’t interested in facts and science, but rather ideological and dangerous desires for a different America that would strangle human potential and flourishing.

Lauren Aragon


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