In recent years, a new, mysterious technology has developed. The consequences: still unknown. The risks: many. The reward: abundance in oil.
What is fracking?
Short for Hydraulic Fracturing, fracking is the process of extracting oil and natural gas from shale rock. The process involves drilling a pipe with small holes,two miles into the earth, or until it reaches the shale formation. Fluid is pumped into the pipes under high pressure, until it shoots out of the holes and fractures the surrounding rock, which releases trapped oil and natural gas. The fossil fuels are brought back through the pipe to be refined.
What are the benefits of fracking?
In a world that has become increasingly focusedon economic development, it comes at no surprise that more energy resources are in high demand. Frackingis the one of the predominant methods of obtaining great amounts of fossil fuels from rock. Until recently, it was impossible to take oil from rock, givingsurplus oil countries the trump card over more economically developed countries. However, should the United States expand their fracking industry, reliance on countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia will soondwindle.
‘Autocratic’ oil shieksaren’t the only reason for this sudden oil industry expansion in the United States.The United States has also suffered from internal struggles, such as the increasing bankruptcy and the urban decay of many cities. Not only has fracking created numerous jobs for the heavily unemployed population, but it has also revived towns and communities that once kicked the economic bucket. It’s no wonder that the United States is now advocating fracking to their semi-ally, China. However, is it really as beneficial as it sounds?
How can this affect us?
Some of the largest concerns with fracking involve environmental issues and potentially negative consequences of the process. Despite the evident benefits of fracking, the technology still represents a gamble. Currently, there are more than 500,000 gas wells in the United States, each of which use2 million gallons of water in one life span. Considering that 1.1 billion people around the world don’t have access to clean drinking water, the allocation of resources in this process are brought to question.
Additionally, fracking has the potential to contaminate ground water. Over 600 chemicals are used in the process of fracking – most of them toxic or carcinogenic –includinguranium, mercury, radium, formaldehyde and hydrochloric acid. Should this mixture of toxins seep into groundwater, the problems and risks would be immeasurable.
In total, 72 trillion gallons of water and 360 billion gallons of chemicals are used to run all wells in the US. China should take a good look at these figures before incurring the risk of harming their environment and their people.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons
This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of UNIT-E. It was written by Silvia Shen, a student at the Dulwich College of Beijing.
UNIT-E was founded in the spring of 2010 with the aim of establishing a non-profit, student-run magazine for international students in Beijing. Staffed by current students from a range of international schools, the magazine provides an amalgam of cultural tidbits, fragments of Beijing student life, and a broad spectrum of unique perspectives from a diverse group of young adults.