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Fracking. You can't get within earshot of a major news outlet these days without hearing the word. Energy companies love it. Environmentalists hate it. And the rest of us are just trying to figure out what the heck it is and why we should care.
One thing's for sure: Fracking is the hot-button energy buzzword right now, and we are currently fracking the bejeezus out of America. According to the Wall Street Journal, over 15 million Americans now live within one mile of a fracking well, and that number is growing. But what does this mean?
Fracking is used to extract natural gas trapped in shale rock formations found as much as two miles below the Earth's surface. Companies drill down to the shale and inject a high-pressure mix of chemicals, sand, and water that fractures (hence "fracking") the rock and releases the gas inside for collection. But unfortunately it's not as simple as it sounds.
That injected fracking fluid, for example, contains hundreds of toxins from mercury and uranium to formaldehyde and benzene that are linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, developmental problems, and more. Some 360 billion gallons of this unholy gooze will be eventually forced into those wells currently drilled, and only 30-50% of that will be recaptured.
That's why we hear so much about fracking and water - it can ruin water supplies and every one of the half million wells that dot the landscape today will suck down up to 144 million gallons before it's closed. Add to that the air pollution fracking creates and earthquakes it causes, and it's clear you really don't want it in your neighborhood. So what can you do to prevent fracking where you live?
- First, check this list of communities that have banned it. You may be safe!
- If your community isn't on the list, you'll have to work with like-minded neighbors to institute a ban. Before starting, however, check this list of anti-fracking groups. There may already be one nearby.
- Start by inviting everyone to a home screening of Gasland, a recent documentary about the perils of fracking, which can serve as a rallying point
- Before the screening, download this useful guide from Food & Water Watch on how to pass a fracking ban where you live.
- Check out the Natural Resources Defense Council's Don't Get Fracked web site. Click the tab labeled "Your Rights" and learn how to stay abreast of new projects and what can be done. Food & Water Watch also offers a good set of activist tools.
- Get in touch with Americans Against Fracking. They're tracking local efforts around the country to ban the practice. Keep up with state-level initiatives at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
While fracking has been around for decades, new technologies now make it feasible in previously impossible places. That's why the fracking boom could be coming to your town even if it's never had any energy development before. And it's why we all need to get out in front of this issue before it becomes one where we live. Anything else would be a fracking shame.
About the Inkslinger
The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America's most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds.