Fracking: Its History in the US and Its Impacts on Climate Change

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What is Fracking?

Fracking is a drilling technique that allows oil and natural gas to be produced. Processes similar to fracking have been around since the 1860s. It was first used on hard rock oils, and later transitioned to being used on natural gas and water well. Today in the US, the output of these wells makes us 43% of oil productions and 67% of the natural gas production. Hydraulic fracking has been banned in Maryland, Vermont, New York and Washington over the last ten years. It still has many supporters in New Jersey, Texas, and Pennsylvania. According to the National Petroleum Council, the natural gas industry in the United States relies heavily on fracking, as do many counties across the country.

History of Fracking in the US

Although similar processes existed in the US before the 1940s, these were the first years where companies began trying to understand it and implement it into industry. In Kansas, the Standard Oil and Gas Corporation where it was used to extract natural gas from limestones. Then in 1949, the practice became more widespread and a company called Halliburton that spread it across areas in the US and helped the practices become more well known and widespread. But then in the 1970s, fracking declined after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries instituted a ban on exports of petroleum from the US and cut down the production of oil. Yet, in certain states fracking continued to be widespread and a popular technique. In the late 21st century, Mitchell Energy & Development Corp donated money in an effort to develop new fracking techniques and extract natural gas. Individual states have set regulations and boundaries regarding the practice of fracking. Some laws have to do with the environment as well as protecting communities' right to clean water. In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Act. The purpose of this act was to “establish standards and treatment requirements for public water supplies, control underground injection of wastes, finance infrastructure projects, and protect sources of drinking water” (1). This act brought to light the potential damages of drinking water from wells that were extracted using the fracking technique. Communities who supported fracking fought back, and the EPA ultimately concluded that they would exclude “the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities” (2). from the ban.

Now every fracking operating has to comply with both the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, as well as other federal regulations. States do have control over companies within their territory and allow the prospective agencies to regulate as they choose.

Argument for Fracking

Those who believe fracking positively impacts our country argue that it allows us to have lower energy prices, creates economic growth, helps build up small towns across America, and creates jobs. They attempt to push aside concerns regarding the environment and potential risks to clean air and water access to US citizens.

The Institute for Energy Research, a research firm that analyzes global energy markets, argued that banning fracking as a country would be detrimental to our energy sector and would dramatically reduce the economic benefits of the oil and gas companies and would raise energy prices for Americans. They also argued that this would negatively impact the US’s position in the global energy market as they would have to begin heavily importing natural gas into the country. They cited a study done by the Chamber of Commerce claiming that banning fracking on a federal level would cause a decrease in 14.8 million jobs, both gas and electrical prices would nearly double, and an increase in $4,000 for living expenses across the country.

Argument for Widespread Ban

Opponents of fracking argue its impacts on the environment are detrimental and the government needs to put more regulations on fracking companies. They believe that private sector companies are greedy and will destroy clean water resources and harm our air to benefit their own companies and need to be watched.

A 2015 study, Food and Water Watch, argued that the environmental impact of fracking and its harm on rivers, streams, groundwater, and air outway the net positive effects of fracking. Also, if the US wants to work toward zero carbon emissions and help our climate, banning fracking is key to that. Another study done in 2012 by Environment America argued that the government should put restrictions on the fracking community. The author’s of the study said: “"[F]ederal, state and local governments should hold the oil and gas industry accountable for the costs of fracking” (2). They argued that companies need to pay more taxes, pay the consequences to damaged land, and give financial compensation to communities impacted by the fracking community.

The Implications of Fracking Today

Many Americans were rarely impacted by the fracking industry on a daily basis, but many oil companies and common blue collar workers rely on fracking for their livelihoods. Many Americans enjoy low gas and electricity bills because of the industry. These natural gases are easily accessible to Americans because they are produced here. Yet, banning fracking is moving our country, and our planet, one step closer to stopping climate change and creating a sustainable planet for future generations. Banning fracking would ask many big corporations and average working Americans to make sacrifices that would ultimately end up helping our planet survive. The debate surrounding fracking highlights major sacrifices we have to make in the US to ultimately alleviate the destruction we have caused on our planet and climate.



More posts by Camila Hirani.
Fracking: Its History in the US and Its Impacts on Climate Change
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