The modern day definition of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the forcing open of fissures in subterranean rocks by introduction of liquid/solid mixtures at high pressure in order to extract oil or natural gas from the rock formation or shale. Typically the liquid that is used in fracking is a mixture of water, sand, and other various chemicals that could be hazardous. This mixture is introduced into a wellbore, or a hole in the earth’s surface that was created by drilling into various casings, which happen to be the first line of defense when introducing chemicals. Until fairly recently these shale formations, made of dense sedimentary rock, have been considered too expensive to drill. That’s where hydrofracking has come into the equation. It allows companies to retrieve oil or natural gas, often a mile below the earth’s surface or more relatively cheaply. There are definitely some pros and cons to hydrofracking as well as legitimate arguments in both lobbies to the overall effect that this method of oil and natural gas extraction has on the environment, the economy, and our communities.
Fracking was introduced in the United States in the early 1940’s. Fracking is now done on a much larger scale than it was in those days and has put once inaccessible oil, within the grasp of different oil companies. The mechanical principles of fracking have not changed over the years but the techniques used to frack have changed drastically. The origin of hydrofracking involved explosives instead of high pressure liquid to rubblize rock formations in order to release oil or natural gas from the spaces between those rock formations more easily. The goal of fracking has always been to rubblize rocks that contain oil or gas in between their cracks or fissures. When the drilling method was first implemented after the explosive method was discontinued, it was used to obtain the natural gas and oil from holes in the drill pipe. The wells were only vertical and were limited on how much natural gas and oil they could extract from the shale layer. Now the oil companies will drill horizontally when they reach the shale layer to maximize their surface area in the shale and thus maximizing the amount of oil and gas they retrieve from the shale. The environmental issues and concerns surrounding fracking, however, have not changed that much and still exist to this day (Mooney, 2011).
The debate surrounding hydraulic fracturing is often met with a large amount of acrimony on both sides of the aisle. It becomes hard for ordinary citizen to take a side in the debate when each side meets the other with such vitriol. On the one side, proponents of fracking claim that it can help lead to lower energy prices, more jobs, energy independence, and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. On the other side the opponents have claimed that fracking has led to soil, water, and air pollution. These opponents have also claim that fracking has exposed communities to health problems, exploding wells, and earthquakes. (Prud’homme, 2014) This has resulted in a mistrust and uncertainty on both sides.
The pros of hydraulic fracturing mostly lie in the economics of the oil and natural gas industries as well as in the overall economic production and GDP of some areas. The introduction of hydraulic fracturing to the oil and gas industry has been a very lucrative for certain areas. For a long time the oil and gas industry was characterized by declining production, limited supply, and volatile pricing. Hydraulic fracturing did not completely solve all of those issues when it was introduced but it definitely curtailed some of the declination of the industry. Many believe that unrestricted fracking will give the United States a very competitive edge in the global marketplace. For example, the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania remains relatively untapped until 2009. That year, hydrofracking created over 44,000 new jobs in…