Editorial Dubs Fracking Drilling a 'Gangplank' to FutureJul 31, 2013
President Barack Obama erred when he said recently that natural gas production through the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) method is a so-called bridge to renewable energy in the future.
In fact, according to an editorial appearing this week in The New York Times, fracking for natural gas is the complete opposite. Cornell University professor Anthony R. Ingraffea writes that fracking drilling — namely due to the release of methane gas during the process and as it’s burned at the consumer level — is a “gangplank” to the future… a future marked by increased signs of global warming and less investments into actual renewable energies.
We’ve been reporting on the potential pitfalls that accompany widespread fracking drilling. The process is being employed in full force in several states across the U.S. as more states consider allowing natural gas and drilling companies to open new wells on leased land in the future. Fracking is conducted by introducing a drill to an underground horizontal well shaft that extends to a shale bed about 2 miles below the surface. The drill is accompanied by hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh water, sand, and a mixture of several hundred chemicals. Once this mix meets the rock, the shale is blasted apart and natural gas is released.
Methane gas is the main component of natural gas, Ingraffea writes in his editorial, “Gangplank to a Warm Future.” In his editorial, he goes on to say that methane gas is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but the less-potent gas is blamed, primarily for global warming. Conversely, Obama’s words and the federal government’s hesitation to confirm some of the dangers of fracking drilling show that federal and state governments are encouraging more drilling even as they promote a more sustainable future through the use of renewable energies.
The New York Times editorial states that “we have renewable wind, water, solar and energy-efficiency technology options now. We can scale these quickly and affordably, creating economic growth, jobs and a truly clean energy future to address climate change. Political will is the missing ingredient.”
The editorial notes that methane gas is continuously leaking from fracking wells and the industry is well aware of the problems it causes. The piece notes that 5 percent of all new fracking wells constructed will leak methane gas immediately and that rate increases over time as the well is put to use and its structural integrity tested. Ingraffea highlights his case through the use of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data that shows leakage rates at fracking wells equated to 2.3 to 17 percent of annual production.