Is Fracking Only Delaying Our Move to Renewable Energy?

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“We will be dancing to the joy of cheap oil prices until the wells are drilled dry” in as little as five years, write Robert Weiner and Hannah Coombs yesterday in the Lynchburg News & Advance titled “Fracking’s Benefits Will End”.

The Obama administration announced new fracking regulations to kick in June 24 which require the disclosure of chemicals in the hydraulic fracturing process.  “Fracking” is the operation of drilling and injecting liquid beneath the earth’s surface, breaking down shale reserves to release gas and oil. Authors Weiner and Coombs say these regulations “appear to curtail environmentally destructive practices while maintaining higher oil production with lower price.”

However, they say that the ending regulations “only provide short-term prevention of serious damage.” They say that although there is an aim to “bring transparency and safer practices to fracking”, the wells will eventually deplete, referencing Chairman of Drillinginfo,Allen Gilmer’s research that fracking wells diminish by 60 to 70 percent in the first year, with many reaching low amounts after only five years.

Weiner and Coombs point out the high levels of up to 600 harmful chemicals injected into the earth’s surface resulting in over 120 cases of water contamination in the past four years. They argue that the consequences continue with high environmental damage at a high price. “In a period where droughts are devastating the West Coast, 72 trillion gallons of water are needed to operate all fracking wells in the U.S a year,” says Weiner and Coombs in addition to a cost of $2.4 million per well.

The regulations “lack strength and protection,” claim Weiner and Coombs. They agree with Rep. Paul Grijalva, D-Ariz, chair of the congressional Progressive Caucus, who has commented that “this rule does absolutely nothing.”  He compares the requirements for better well construction and disposal of fluids as “obvious steps like working steering wheels and brakes in a car.”

They indicate that the EPA has revealed fracking’s impacts include not only contaminated underground sources of drinking water but also “air pollution resulting from the release of volatile organic compounds.” Using Fort Worth, Texas as an example, they show that one of the largest fracking sites resulted in the Parr family of a neighboring town successfully suing for contaminated wells. Similarly, the University of Texas experienced more than 60 earthquakes since 2008.

How hydraulic fracking works

How hydraulic fracking works

The “snowballing energy crisis” they describe is one that can only be solved by implementing renewable resources as a long term solution. “Gas prices near $2.00 a gallon are being celebrated by Americans across the nation who remember the $4.00 prices of a year ago.” Studies by Global Sustainability Research calculate that because of wells drying up, in order to maintain current levels of shale oil production, fracking will need 6,000 new wells a year, costing $35 billion annually.

Weiner and Coombs propose the creation and support of the same number of jobs presented by fracking supporters but instead in eco-friendly sectors like wind and solar while additionally “generating revenue, solidifying fuel independence, and reducing prices through efficiency.”

Describing it as “Congress acting like we are in the 1920’s, obliviously awaiting another depression”, Weiner and Coombs show that energy policy is a crisis which “remains in free fall” while the nation approaches the end of this surplus supply of oil from fracking. They emphasize that the Administration’s regulations are a “compromise with leading energy corporations” that “falls short in protecting both the economy and the environment”. In addition to being “desperately overdue” for stronger restrictions, they say the nation needs clean alternatives to the destructive practices of fracking. Weiner and Coombs conclude that “ultimately, we will not have a choice.”

Weiner and Coombs wrote the article for the Lynchburg News and Advance because George Washington Forest, where fracking was recently approved, is nearby.

LINK TO ARTICLE: http://www.newsadvance.com/opinion/community_viewpoint/weiner-coombs-fracking-s-benefits-will-eventually-end/article_62c4f220-dfb9-11e4-a5b2-5fd2dee6b5ae.html

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This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.