Fracking is when gas trapped deep underground is released. Superficially is sounds simple, but it involves drilling deep into the earth for up to two miles (a bit over 3km). Millions of litres of water is pumped from natural aquifers, mixed with highly toxic chemicals which is then forcefully injected into the rock to explode it, and release the gas to enable it to be extracted.
The process of blasting rock in this manner is called fracturing or fracking, and can be conducted underneath farmland, water reservoirs, rivers or homes. The sludge is then pumped up and includes a mix of water, chemicals, the gas and other debris from deep underground. Obviously this mixture needs to be filtered and the toxic materials removed so that the water is able to be released back into the environment safely.
There is acknowledgement that this process can trigger earth tremors and earthquakes which is greeted with alarm by those living nearby. The suggestion by one company that communities could implement a seismic early warning system wasn't reassuring. People living in areas where fracking is taking place have reported increased pollution including contaminated drinking water either from the filtering not being rigorous enough or leaks at the drill site. (Here's a post about a recent earthquake in Melbourne. Fracking is carried out in Gippsland which is riddled with fault lines. Edited in 22 June 2012.)
Although the industry claims to have become more efficient and safe, they appear to accept that there will be accidents. Apparently in the US, the industry isn’t well regulated, having gained exemptions from a number of Federal environmental safety laws and requirements that other industries have to follow. Many groups are concerned that while we continue to invest so heavy in dwindling fossil fuel reserves, there will be no real incentive to build long term sustainable energy industries.
Because we’re consuming fossil fuels so quickly, the natural processes that would in the past have absorbed the carbon-dioxide are only managing to remove about half of the amount we need, so there is a excess in the atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases that is known to contribute to global warming which in turn contributes to climate change. Coal, oil and natural gas, are all fossil fuels - they account for around 86% of primary energy consumption in the world. Because they take millions of years to form they’re referred to as non-renewable resources, because once we’ve used them up, they're gone forever.
|South Australia. Photos D. Abbott|
Last year I wrote about the importance of Friends for F in my theme on workplace bullying. Here.