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What Is Fracking?

Updated: Feb 17, 2022

Fracking: the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc. so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas.

Fracking was a hot topic during last week’s Vice Presidential debate so I thought it would be helpful to discuss this technique and its effect the environment. To be clear, both Harris and Pence stated that their campaigns support fracking, even though many environmentalists are opposed. The NRDC offers this helpful summary. While fracking provides natural gas and other fossil fuels, it also strains the Earth’s resources. For example, the extraction process uses a high amount of water, and this can aggravate a region that’s already suffering from a drought. Fracking chemicals also contaminate the water supply. Other issues include gas and oil pipe leaks, air pollution (such as methane, which is a contributor to climate change) and earthquakes caused by the fracking process.

In order to offer a balanced argument, I looked into why fracking should be supported. Forbes offers that fracking “has abruptly lowered energy prices, strengthened energy security and even lowered air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions by displacing coal in electricity generation. The lower energy prices have meant more money in the pockets of American families and businesses. And the lower emissions are certainly good news for our health with large reductions in air pollution dispersed across the country and, at least for the near term, our climate.” While the NRDC article counters this theory of lowering pollution, no one can argue that lower prices and cost savings aren’t benefits for the average family. Yet are we being forced to pay in a different way?

As a lay person, choosing a side seems useless. It’s like arguing that SUVs are environmentally better huge pick-up trucks (which it’s possible they are), when we should be focusing on electric cars instead. (Full disclosure – I drive a small SUV because it’s what currently works best for my family. Not perfect here.) Rather, this country should be putting time and focus into strengthening our use of solar and wind energy, in order to eventually move away from fossil fuels entirely. Here’s where The Green New Deal comes into play. I wish the VP candidates would have supported that platform during the debate, rather than shying away and dangling the proverbial fracking carrot in front us instead.

– Rachel

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