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Lately it seems like news headlines are dominated by fracking this and fracking that. Just what exactly is this fracking business the media is constantly referring to? Don’t worry, you don’t need a Geology degree to understand what people are talking about. Green Queen is going to simplify things for you.
When you search Wikipedia for a fracking definition, the site automatically redirects you to ‘hydraulic fracturing’, and upon further reading ‘induced hydraulic fracturing.’ Scientifically, fracking is the situation by which fractures in rocks are created due to heavy pressure; this creates conduits through which substances can move through. In the news, fracking is shorthand for the human act of making use of man-made and/or natural fractures to extract coveted resources such as petroleum, natural gas, shale gas, etc. Some refer to fracking gas drilling or hydrofracking, Note: fracking can also be spelled fraccing and fracing.
You must be thinking, wow, this is great! Another way for us to access resources that we need and the current reserves of which are being seriously depleted. And from rocks no less! In theory, this does sound like a very appealing solution…but since when does theory hold true?
The reality is that like most ideas that involve tapping into our natural resources, there are ‘side effects.’ Man-made fracking is somewhat equivalent to mining in terms of how the practice affects the environment thought the specific details are different. In the case of fracking, oil and gas companies sometimes use toxic chemicals to drill through the rocks. Some activists say the list of chemicals number in the hundreds. Big Oil and Big Gas naturally refutes these claims.
The environmental contamination of the groundwater in fracking areas is where the big controversy lies. Toxic water is not something to ignore. Polluted waterways spread to the soil, which then endangers plants and wildlife. This also means river basins and seas can get affected- that’s right water travels fast! Anything that affects plants also indirectly contaminates our food supply…You see where this is going. And we haven’t even mentioned air pollution. 99% of the time, anything polluting our water supply is also polluting the air we breathe in. Remember third grade science? Water evaporates pretty easily. Whatever is in the water goes into the air.
Long story short: wherever there is fracking, local residents and communities are furious at the health risks they are exposed to due to surrounding fracking projects, while the oil and gas companies maintain that the process is safe and extremely necessary as the world needs more oil and gas to power our modern, electro-connected lifestyles.
Some countries like Germany are thinking of banning the practice altogether while in the US, opinions are still very divided. No conclusions can safely be drawn yet. Watch this space!