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Guest Post: What the Frack(ing)

By Monica Kuroki |
In preparation for an office-wide debate, Recyclebank intern Monica Kuroki breaks down fracking for us: From what it is to its pros and cons, here are the basics.

This summer, Recyclebank interns have tackled product, marketing, and environmental research — and on the side, they hosted a fun, office-wide debate over the pros and cons of fracking. But there’s no reason we should be the only ones to benefit from all they’ve learned about hydraulic fracturing! Intern Monica Kuroki, an environmental engineering major at Cornell University, shares her take-aways:

You may have heard about it in the news, read about it in the paper or even seen protestors rally over it in your local community, but we are all left with the same questions: What is fracking anyway? And how does this affect my community and me?

For starters, let’s address natural gas. You use it in your kitchen for gas stovetops, powering the boiler for central heating and heating up your water. Natural gas is a fossil fuel, like coal and oil, found under the land surface and ocean floor. Fossil fuels were formed hundreds of millions of years ago from decaying organisms like plants and animals1, To access it, usually a natural gas pipeline is drilled; then the gas rises to the surface. Fracking utilizes new technology to extract the natural gas from deep within the earth, where it is “stuck” in places that were previously unreachable, like the tiny pores of shale rock.

The major difference between traditional extraction and fracking is the use of fracking fluid. Fracking fluid, made up of quartz sand, water and chemicals2, is used to fracture, or break, the layers of shale holding the natural gas. Once the shale is broken, the tiny pores are open enough to allow the trapped gas to flow to the surface.

With a growing population and rising energy prices, fracking appears to be one solution to our energy crisis. Because fracking opens up a large source of natural gas, there is opportunity for less dependence on any of the 80 foreign nations3 we currently import from. The Marcellus shale, spanning from New York to Tennessee, offers a large, untapped supply of natural gas and has been said to contain enough natural gas to meet the needs of the entire United States for a full two years4.

However, as the saying goes, “Every rose has its thorn.” While fracking may help the economy through job creation and less foreign dependence, and by providing energy for the United States, the chemicals used in fracking fluid have brought up environmental concerns. Because every company has its own “cocktail” of fracking fluid, there is no complete list of the chemicals used, and these chemicals have the potential to enter sources of drinking water — when gas leaks from the piping, the ground and water sources are at risk of contamination. The main culprit, methane, is a flammable gas that can lead to “explosive water”5. It’s also speculated that fracking is linked to earthquakes: To dispose of the wastewater generated from fracking, the fracking fluid is commonly injected back into the earth, where it puts undue pressure on rocks and encourages slippage at fault lines6.

To learn more about fracking, there are many great resources available on the web, such as the US EPA website. You can also contact your local community officials to see their stance on fracking in your community!

Where do you turn to learn more about fracking? Share your ideas in the comments below!
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  • enizete l. 4 years ago
    It is one topic for which is barely discussed... What about the intended exportation of all this gas outside of our borders and what of its intended structure for pricing of gas remaining here. Frack till the cows come home but what is its true benefit if hoards get exported
  • Ruth D. 4 years ago
    Watch the films Gasland and Gasland 2. The gas companies are exempt from the Clean Air and Water Act. The results are pretty sobering.
  • Patricia G. 4 years ago
    Speculation, speculation. Pretty soon speculation turns into the truth without any further proof.
  • richard g. 4 years ago
    read in 'wall street journal' that frackking wasn't problem but loose seals were?
  • Boyce O G. 4 years ago
    Fracking usually uses liquid nitrogen. One of the most harmless gasses
    one can use. Problems arise when the pipe runs through potable water
    tables without being sealed off. Not so hard to do with modern technology.
    Old engineer
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