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Is Fracking Back?

Fracking.  Once the buzzword of environmental activists in 2015 that faded into the background, has quietly regrown through the United States.  Even in an “environmentally-conscious” state, like Colorado, not far beyond our national parks, big oil is ravaging the land and creating hazardous living conditions for the poor.  The government allows these people to be taken advantage of through systematic racism, in which policies prevent these poor and minority populated areas from advocating their truth in favor of short term economic growth.  Only through policy restructuring and environmental regulations are we to see a light at the end of this tunnel.

Let’s start all the way at the beginning. Hydraulic fracturing is a process in which an oil well is dug deep into the ground.  Once the well is dug deep enough, highly pressurized liquids are injected deep into the earth’s bedrock to produce natural gas and oil.  At first, this may sound like a great idea, however, this end goal of clean energy removed from the earth’s ground allows for distraction and greenwashing. 

While the big picture of unlimited clean energy is what big oil companies want you to focus on, there are many neglected side effects in the building of that future.  To begin with, while oil and gas are extracted from the deep well, much of the pressurized liquid that contains chemicals rise back up to the surface.  This contaminated water must be cleaned somehow and in many cases, it is simply stored on sight at the fracking facility.  Additionally, as gas is extracted from the site, pumps leak and release large amounts of methane into the atmosphere.  This methane is much more harmful than the amount of CO2 we save by burning natural gas.  So, this often overlooked externality negates much of the pollution we mitigate by using natural gas.  This means we are committing to degrade the environment while at the same time creating hazardous health effects for the surrounding communities. 

One simple leak in the fracking pipe can create dangerous drinking water and polluted air for those within range.  According to TED Ed, they have even found increases in seismic activity in areas near fracking sites.  Millions of Americans will suffer through dangerous drinking waters, hazardous breathing conditions and increased earthquake risks all so that big oil can extract energy from their land which they claim is clean.  Many scientists have put forth that the time, energy, and resources we put into fracking take away from cleaner sources we are researching currently.  They say that fracking along with the distractions it creates will never lead us to a sustainable future.

All of this information about fracking begs the question, why would you ever allow someone to frack near your land?  In a New York Times article, they outlined how fracking companies place their wells in poor and remote areas where policy is hard to create.  Make no mistake, this is not for public welfare but rather a form of environmental racism in which the poor and voiceless communities are targeted.  It should come as absolutely no surprise that one of the poorest towns in all of Colorado, Weld County, contains over 23,000 fracking wells alone (NY Times).  For those that may argue that this is better since weld county is a more remote area if safety was their number one concern, why is there a site 828 feet away from a public school that thousands of children attend(NY Times)?  Simply, a focus on economic gains. 

Don’t believe me?  In a heartbreaking Greenpeace interview, a Los Animas resident by the name of Tachia Sandova describes her old life in which she had rocky mountain spring water running into the well, providing her house with clean fresh water.  However, when fracking companies drilled near her land, her life was changed forever.  She and all her neighbors immediately were unable to drink the well water they depended on for so long. Instead, she now drives miles for freshwater.  She called fracking “a nightmare from hell” as well as a “dream-killer”.  Hardly terms that would be used to describe somebody trying to save the environment.  

So, if fracking is truly this harmful one may ask why the government hasn’t stepped in at all yet?  Systematic issues that have plagued us for many decades.  The American political system is set up with incredibly short political terms.  This creates a push in politics to create gains in any sector sooner rather than later.  This is extremely difficult from an environmental aspect as almost all changes take lots of time.  In turn, many politicians favor economic gains over environmental protection.  Since oil companies produce 32 billion dollars in business per year, they are great for short term economic growth, however, these politicians are completely ignoring the long term effects on the undervalued environment.

In summary, the fracking process hurts the well being of poor communities that live nearby while making minimal progress on a sustainable future. Big oil taking advantage of poor communities while pressing the government to allow them to degrade the environment in favor of personal and nationwide short term economic growth.  This growth is unsustainable as an inhabitable environment dooms us all, no matter how much money we make.  So I urge that we change the ways that we look at fracking.  Our most important tool is advocacy and information.  Write your senators, write your mayors, write your governors.  The more we express our needs the more easily we can have them met.  It should not be on the poor neighborhoods that are directly affected by this but all of us as we all live on this planet.