What the Frack?
Fracking: a term heard in economics, environmentalism, and now on the debate stage of the 2020 election. Also known as hydraulic fracturing, it is the “process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock,” in order to harvest natural gas and oil, according to BBC’s article on fracking and the associated controversies.
Fracking is great for our country’s economy. Modern-day fracking practices have allowed the US to become up to 90% self-sufficient in oil production. Furthermore, according to Dr. Daniel Yergin, the vice chairman of the global consulting firm Information Handling Services Markit, the industry provides several million jobs and produces billions of dollars in government revenue. And, according to the Bureau of Land Management, approximately 90 percent of new oil and gas wells on public lands are fracked. But as I learned more about the environmental consequences, the negative aspects of fracking pushed me farther and farther into opposition.
In a world already experiencing the climate crises created by warming 1 degree celsius, National Parks serve as the few remaining spots untouched by the consequences of human activity, acting as an escape from industrialized society and allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the breathtaking views nature presents. We’ve now seen that even these public lands aren’t safe from the devastating effects of climate change, as wildfires tear through millions of acres of land as a result of warmer temperatures and drier conditions, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. As oil and gas industries look at public lands through a profit-hungry lens, we cannot allow further destruction to take place in our federal lands, National Parks or on Native American lands.
Continuing to tap into the last remains of wilderness in the US is a senseless act that money cannot justify.
Even ignoring the stark environmental dangers, it’s clear that fracking has dangerous impacts on people as well. Fracked communities find themselves victims of pollution-induced health problems, and future agriculture and tourism endeavors will struggle, as industry-produced economic consequences threaten their livelihoods. Fracking workers often face exposure to toxic chemicals that can lead to lung disease, among other health issues. Residents living near fracking sites have been found to suffer from “headaches, eye irritation, respiratory problems, and nausea,” according to Environment America. Contaminated drinking water, along with the potential for spills and well blowouts are only some of the many dangers brought to a community when fracking comes to town.
It may seem idealistic to believe in a world without fracking. Proponents even argue that the industry has helped the United States shift away from dirtier sources. However, this logic undermines decarbonization efforts and encourages the US’s dependence on fossil fuels. While, according to the US Energy Information Administration, only 17% of energy generated in the United States comes from renewable sources, these alternatives have proven to be beneficial around the globe.
According to the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy of Norway, 98% of Norway’s electricity production comes from renewable energy sources — a majority being hydropower. In Kenya, according to the World Economic Forum, “70% of the nation’s installed electricity capacity comes from renewable energy sources, which is more than three times the global average.” These countries show that transitioning to renewable energy is an achievable and necessary step in the fight against climate change.
In the wake of this past election, environmental action was among the top issues. Unlike what Vice President Mike Pence claimed in the vice presidential debate, President Elect Joe Biden has said he will not ban fracking, but has pledged to ban new fracking permits on federal land and end fracking subsidies. With goals like net-zero emissions and 100% clean energy by 2050, and plans to fight against corporations disproportionately harming low-income communities and communities of color, Biden’s plan to address climate change is a promising step towards a healthier planet. Trump’s environmental records show that he has rejected stronger standards for air pollution and withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement.
Actions like these highlight the current president’s dedication to money over the future of our planet. Most recently, on October 28, according to the Washington Post, “President Trump will open up more than half of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to logging and other forms of development.”
The threats of climate change are not problems for our future children. They are our problems, and the problems of 2020 and every year after unless immediate climate action is implemented. We must elect officials who trust science and the leaders in climate research over the corporations responsible for the pollution suffocating our planet.
Our lives depend on it.