It was a smallish article in my local broadsheet. Yet, to me at least, it said so much.
“Fracking caused quakes,” the headline declared. Below, a Canadian Press story explained that the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission has determined fracking – “a controversial technique used to extract natural gas from shale rock” – was the key factor behind a series of tremors in a corner of the westernmost Canadian province.
B.C. isn’t the only place where the link between fracking and unusual seismic activity has been found, or at least posited. In Oklahoma, for instance, quakes and fracking appear to be linked even if scientists don’t think fracking caused a magnitude-5.6 earthquake in the state last November. And hydraulic fracturing “has been linked to two minor earthquakes in northwest England, very likely by lubricating an already stressed fault zone and thus making it easier for the land to shift,” Scientific American reported.
Fracking is a means of getting natural gas out of places where we humans (fossil fuel junkies, all of us) previously couldn’t get access to it. Basically, an enormous volume of water, sand and chemicals is put down a well with great force to cause fractures in shale. The fracturing releases natural gas to be drawn to the surface.
Note that I didn’t specify what chemicals are in the fracking mix. That’s because the answer varies. Energy companies have their own proprietary fracking formulas and closely guard the precise mixtures they use. We do know that the chemicals have included benzene, methanol, sulfuric acid and hydrogen fluoride.
It wouldn’t be safe for you to drink an ounce of benzene or sulfuric acid, yet we know fracking chemicals do find their way into household tap water.
Defenders of fracking say the risks are more than acceptable when weighed against the benefits of getting more precious fuel for our homes and offices.
I, on the other hand, look at it as another manifestation of humans’ desperate junkie behavior. Like heroin addicts robbing to pay for more smack, our species is going ever farther in pursuit of more oil and gas. Besides breaking up shale deep below ground level, we’re also drilling for oil as far out in the oceans as we can. The BP Deepwater spill illustrated how risky that is.
And most of us are in denial about what our addiction is doing to us, or at least the extent of the harm. No frackin’ doubt about it, in my heartfelt opinion.