The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Callie Roberts is a senior, studying cancer biology and environmental policy, at Duke University. She has been awarded the Teens for Planet Earth Award, Ashoka Youth Venture Award, President's Gold Volunteer Service Award, and President’s Environmental Youth Award for her work with biofuels and environmental health. She is currently a student in Dr. Rebecca Vidra’s environmental science & policy class.
We have all heard about America’s energy crisis, “peak oil,” and anthropogenic climate change. The bottom line is that there is no single solution to these problems. Instead, it will take an array of innovative, trusted renewable technologies to patch our power quilt.
Shale has been hailed as a potentially large patch in our country’s quilt. The avant-garde spirit of hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking,” the extraction process of shale gas) consists of blasting shale rock, sometimes twenty thousand feet underneath the Earth’s surface, with chemical-imbued water at extremely high pressures, in order to crack open gas reservoirs. This has gained support with its relatively low carbon emissions and clean combustion compared to coal-based fuel. Proponents claim that fracking is foolproof and can be trusted.
However, the residents of the small town of Dimock, Pennsylvania, disagree. This once-serene, beautiful town in the Appalachians has been defaced and deforested as a result of the operation of a four-acre horizontal shale drilling site. Residents were outraged by the toxic wastewater craters and the huge construction semis clanking just a thousand feet from their homes.
But, that’s not all.
The town’s aquifer had been terribly polluted. Reports of brown water, combustible water, corrosive water, radioactive water, chemically-polluted water, and water with critically high levels of methane, aluminum, and iron were commonplace. And, this fracking did not just affect this tiny town, but also the fifteen million dependent on the watershed of the Delaware River.
So, should we hail shale as an innovative, safe step toward energy security? Should we “frack, baby, frack” instead of “drill, baby, drill?” Well, no. A Cornell study determined that if our country used shale gas for twenty years, we would be worse off than if we continued to use conventional coal and oil. Here’s why: fracking was initially hailed because burning gas produces half the carbon dioxide emissions as burning coal. But, methane gas, which leaks uncontrollably during the lengthy extraction process, traps 25 times the solar radiation as CO2. The carbon cuts are far outweighed by the increased flux of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas, into our atmosphere, in terms of global warming. We simply do not comprehend the ramifications of fracking: the degrading effect on water, the ecological damage, the dumping of mining waste products, the escape of huge amounts of methane, nor the more discrete impacts like ecosystem fragmentation.
Here is a case where we must look at the science. There is no easy, quick fix, no one-size-fits-all solution. I see fracking as a dirty route to postpone the developments America really needs: clean energy sources with minimal environmental impacts like bladeless wind turbines, paper-printed solar cells and electrocatalysts engineered as electrolyzers to create hydrogen energy. This is where the future lies. Move forward, take the leap and don’t hail shale.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Erica Cirino
Visit a coral reef off the coast of Miami or the Maldives and you may see fields of bleached white instead of a burst of colors.
By Jason Bittel
High up in the mountains of Montana's Glacier National Park, there are two species of insect that only a fly fishermen or entomologist would probably recognize. Known as stoneflies, these aquatic bugs are similar to dragonflies and mayflies in that they spend part of their lives underwater before emerging onto the land, where they transform into winged adults less than a half inch long. However, unlike those other species, stoneflies do their thing only where cold, clean waters flow.
By Bob Curley
- The new chicken sandwiches at McDonald's, Popeyes, and Chick-fil-A all contain the MSG flavor enhancement chemical.
- Experts say MSG can enhance the so-called umami flavor of a food.
- The ingredient is found in everything from Chinese food and pizza to prepackaged sandwiches and table sauces.
McDonald's wants to get in on the chicken sandwich war currently being waged between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A.
By Andrea Germanos
Youth climate activists marched through the streets of Davos, Switzerland Friday as the World Economic Forum wrapped up in a Fridays for Future demonstration underscoring their demand that the global elite act swiftly to tackle the climate emergency.
By Tim Radford
The year is less than four weeks old, but scientists already know that carbon dioxide emissions will continue to head upwards — as they have every year since measurements began — leading to a continuation of the Earth's rising heat.