Last night on Mad Money (clip below) I watched the eccentric Jim Cramer hoot and holler his praises of Fracking (Hydraulic Fracturing) Companies. I am no Fracking expert, but the videos of flaming tap water I have seen in correlation with the drilling practice to not seem to line up with Cramer’s commemorations. Further research did not solidify either opinion on Hydraulic Fracturing, while environmentalist protest the practice holding signs like “You can’t drink gas” and “I prefer my water without chemicals”, companies like Continental Resources, Halliburton’s and Clean Harbors (all featured on last night’s Mad Money) are endorsing the method whole-heartedly. Is the economy trumping the environment, or do Fracking companies believe what their doing is as clean and noble as they say it is?
It’s hard to imagine that anyone would intentionally poison a community’s water source, however, history shows us that worst has happened. Hydraulic Fracturing is accomplished by pumping large amounts of liquid down into the ground in order to push natural gas up to the surface. Seems easy enough, but the problem is that oil wells run right past, through, or under water reserves in the form of aquifers, which is where many cities (such as my hometown Spokane) pull the majority of their drinking water from. The Fracking process poisons this water, in environmentalist arguments anyway. Either natural gas leaks into the water or the chemical liquid, which is being pumped down into the ground, contaminates aquifers.
Those doing the Hydraulic Fracturing claim the practice is as clean as can be, and are eager to do more of it. One thing is for sure; those companies doing drilling are helping dwindling economies in rural areas where jobs are scarce. When a rig is set up, it demands thousands of workers, many of whom are from the local areas.
“drilling has brought wealth, but it has split neighbor from neighbor: Those who have mineral rights and are paid big money by gas companies, and those who aren’t, but put up with the side-effects.”
As one would expect, claims of drinking water contamination have been flat-out denied by drilling companies. I found a great example of this denial in a New York Times article:
“Laura Amos of Silt, Colo., blamed 2-BE in fracturing fluid for the rare tumor she developed after a well near her home blew out in 2001 during the fracturing process. State regulators fined the operator, EnCana Corp., $99,400 because gas was found in Amos’ water well. EnCana disputed their finding, though the company did not fight it.
But state regulators concluded that hydraulic fracturing was not to blame for the problems with Amos’ water well. They suggested that if Amos had been exposed to 2-BE it may have come from household cleaning fluids, such as Windex, rather than her groundwater.
The case was essentially closed in 2006 when Amos accepted a reported multimillion-dollar settlement from EnCana, which also bought her family’s property. Amos no longer discusses the matter publicly.”
Case and settlements like this are the reason that Hydraulic Fracturing companies can claim that there have been no direct correlations between Fracking and contaminated drinking water. As long as companies can say “it could have been…” they can retain this statement with shady accuracy.
To reiterate this point I will include another quote from the same New York Times article as referenced above, one by Josh Fox who is the director of an anti-drilling documentary, Gasland:
“When they confine their definition to the single moment of the underground fracturing — a part of the process that has never been investigated — they can legally deny the obvious,”
This means that even if a spill happens, it can be attributed to the drilling of the well itself not the stage of Fracking which comes later and still be in a legal “clear”. In other words; if the oil companies were burger joints they could respond to an outbreak of a disease as apart of processing the meat at a slaughterhouse, and not the burger joint’s fault for just cooking the burger, thus cooking the burger is still okay. This makes sense on a certain level of logic, but one could also argue that drilling and Fracking have closer ties than meat processing and burger cooking… Or do they?
Maybe the moral of the story is that drilling, and Fracking should not be done near where people live and get their water from. Seems simple enough until companies realize that many communities are situated directly atop of a “Black Gold Mine”.
It’s a tug of war between corporations and informed environmentalist, health and profit… Who will win? And who’s side are you on? What will you do when Fracker’s knock on your door, telling you that it is impossible for Fracking fluid to rise several miles from the ground and contaminate your drinking water? Will you sign their papers, wait for the settlement check, or trust the man holding the clipboard? Evidence is neither here nor there as to what is “right” so if that happens to you, you will have to decide for yourself what need be done.
It’s a Fracking confusing situation, that’s for sure.
What Makes It Green:
Or rather, what makes it “un-green”. Contaminated drinking water, being a communal resource is everybody’s business. Natural gas is not a renewable resource, and thus is not a sustainable resource. I am a proponent for alternative energy. I think that both sides of the Fracking debate have elements of truth, but the bottom line is that we will run out of “Black Gold” so the health and drinking water consequences may not be worth it in the long run. Many people are already paying the price of Fracking, while others are getting paid. I think it’s time to stop Fracking around and start seriously implementing alternative energy practices that will aid in a “greener” healthier and brighter future for everybody.