Dr. Bud Weinstein
Beginning in 2009, hydraulic fracturing started to circulate in news headlines about the safety and reliability of this emerging technology. About 60%–80% of all oil and gas wells in the U.S. will require fracturing treatment to remain viable, so finding new methods to make hydraulic fracturing sustainable while maintaining environmental integrity should be at the forefront of the debate. However, hydraulic fracturing is an extremely controversial topic and most voters do not fully understand all the issues. Hydraulic fracturing will remain a necessary “evil” in order to fulfill the world’s growing energy demand, because hydraulic fracturing extracts natural gas. Until the next green innovation, natural gas will be the bridge fuel to the future. Natural gas is clean, abundant, domestic, versatile, secure and valuable, which makes natural gas the most environmentally friendly hydrocarbon today. Hydraulic fracturing or “fracing” blast sand, chemicals and water at high pressures to extract oil and natural gas found deep below in the earth’s shale formations. Fracing allegedly is associated with four major environmental concerns: water contamination, methane leaks, water usage and seismic activity. This paper examines both sides of the arguments including both the critics’ and proponents’ perspectives. Each environmental concern examines the extent of the environmental issues and explains the common misconceptions associated with fracing. New technologies and policies will offer oil and gas companies alternatives to make fracing safer. Wastewater recycling, new fracing fluids and better regulations are to name just a few. Though, the public’s demand for more renewable resources is a noble cause and still should be an option on the table. However, understanding why non-dispatchable technologies like wind and solar cannot replace natural gas in the immediate future is an important argument to understand why the world currently needs fracing. Current political trends indicate that fracing is here to stay, but companies should expect more rules and regulations to follow. However, just because the world needs fracing does not mean hydraulic fracturing cannot be done ethically and sustainably. FracFocus and the Center for Sustainable Shale Development provide companies with self-regulations that will make fracing more sustainable and environmentally safe. Self-regulation is just one example of how oil and gas companies may conduct fracing ethically while gaining a competitive advantage by staying ahead of costly regulations. Fracing may be here to stay, but there are methods to conduct fracing ethically while still being profitable for oil and gas companies.
ethics, fracking, fracing, hydrualic fracturing, pros, cons, renewable energy, sustainable, issue, ethics, ethical
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Brock, Daniel, "An Ethical Look at Hydraulic Fracturing" (2014). Engaged Learning Collection. 61.