The United States’ desperation for domestically produced energy continues to lead to destructive decisions that decimate ecosystems and human lives. Mountaintop removal coal mining tears apart the West Virginia mountains; a recent study has connected mountaintop removal with a rise in birth defects. Coal industry lawyers responded by blaming the defects on incest. Oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has resumed after last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. Former petroleum company employees staff underfunded and demoralized regulatory agencies. In the face of nonexistent national leadership on clean energy, Americans continue embracing poorly tested energy technologies with reckless abandon.
Fracking is a process by which millions of gallons of fluid are pumped down a well into rock. The resulting pressure fractures the rock, allowing wells to bring up difficult to reach natural gas. Supporters say that it provides cheap, domestically produced energy that we need for economic growth. They claim that burning natural gas is less deleterious to the climate than coal or oil.
But environmentalists have strongly criticized fracking. We simply do not know the long-term effects of fracking upon nature or the human body. We do know that it has contaminated ground water supplies both in the United States and around the world. Drilling operations inject hazardous substances into the wells that can expose humans to danger. Environmental Protection Agency documents have shown increases in radium and benzene in water supplies near fracking sites. In an interview with Global Comment this year, Gasland director Josh Fox lambasted how we allow companies to do whatever they want, noting “You can’t just go, ‘Oops. Well, let’s do it over and fill the ground back up with clean water.’ Once it’s contaminated it’s going to stay that way and it’s going to stay that way forever.”