By Daniel Barron
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a shortsighted approach to solving our economic and energy needs. The deeper implications of the fracking process and natural gas consumption boom establish a weak and misleading justification for unfounded benefits the industry, and their interest groups, would like us to believe.
1. As a source of jobs, the sustainability of fracking would seemingly rival that of asbestos installation. The boom in natural gas production is supplying jobs to workers displaced by the economic recession, but does that mean these are “good” sustainable jobs? What are the long-term health risks for this occupation? Perhaps one day these same energy companies will get rich again, starting businesses that accept public grants to clean up their own poison. Given this pollution is being injected directly into deep wells, this would be an impossible undertaking, though from a corporate perspective this would be a very lucrative and long-term (endless) profit source.
2. As a proposed clean energy source, the entire spectrum of natural gas bleeds inefficiencies. Exploration and collection processes utilize dangerous chemical mixtures requiring thousands of gallons of fresh water. The exposure and transfer of these chemicals to potable groundwater is almost certain. The entire process from gas well development to transportation incurs massive fuel consumption, and the end product, though cleaner than dirty coal, is still a fossil fuel and a net emitter of damaging greenhouse gases.
3. On claims of safety, the natural gas producers have been very public, but say very little. The human health implications masked in secrecy and defended as trade secrets are no different than the historic concealment of severe health implications from other industrial processes, DDTs, PCBs and sulfur dioxide, to name a few. This invasion on our human right to a healthy and safe environment has happened in the past and continues to occur under the profits-before-people paradigm. The ugly truth of this process is being suppressed, and industry lawyers have health care professionals and the public locked up in an expensive legal cage.
What are better alternatives to natural gas and the shortsighted methods in which it is derived? Alternative energy sources such as solar and wind are very promising in the growth of old and new industries alike. Of course, the best, and unpopular, route to sustainability is to use less energy and waste fewer resources (much less).
The American citizen must exercise vigilance and responsibility for the issues that impact our environment. Future generations will be critical of our decision to act, or to not act. Significant and important change is made in the individual and must come from the bottom up.
Daniel Barron is a Freeport, Ill., resident.
From the Oct. 3-9, 2012, issue