Letter: The high price of fracking

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Two new studies on fracking – the shooting of chemical-laden fluid into deep rock layers to release oil and gas – highlight serious problems with the practice. One study, by Physicians for Social Responsibility, found “no evidence that fracking can be practiced in a manner that does not threaten human health.” Over 1,200 papers were used to document the harm done by fracking as it poisons the air and water, and directly imperils the health of tens of thousands.

The second study, from Cornell, documented in 2011 that leaked methane from fracking could make the production and burning of fracked gas worse for the climate than coal. Methane is 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2. Fracked gas – explicitly sold as a cleaner bridge to the future – in fact is hastening the arrival of more severe climate change.

Until the early 2000s, U.S. natural gas production was flat or falling. Had this trend continued, solar, wind, other renewables and conservation would have had a chance to replace coal and natural gas as energy sources. Instead, the fracking boom was on. Today, there are about 100,000 natural gas wells; by 2050, an estimated 1 million may be in place.

We are now on track to exceed 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming in just 10 to 15 years, faster than the former “worst-case scenario” of 1.5 degrees of warming by 2040. Fracking may benefit a tiny minority of the planet, but those benefits are far outweighed by the costs.