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Hydraulic fracturing in the USA - Assignment Example

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Fracking, is synonymously acknowledged as hydraulic fracturing, involves the drilling of shale gas from thousands of feet under the surface of the earth, while also pumping at high pressure millions of chemicals and water additives into these drilled wells (Hillstrom 23). Since…
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Hydraulic fracturing in the USA
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Pros and Cons of Hydraulic Fracturing in the USA Fracking, is synonymously acknowledged as hydraulic fracturing, involves the drilling of shale gas from thousands of feet under the surface of the earth, while also pumping at high pressure millions of chemicals and water additives into these drilled wells (Hillstrom 23). Since the United States possesses large shale gas reserves, most proponents and advocates of the practice contend that if enough support is given to the industry, it portends a real potential for energy independence. This argument is, however, counteracted by environmentalists who contend that the fracking process has potential drawbacks that are yet to be evaluated fully and that the results may make it not worth the risk. Rather, it is their opinion that the US should proceed towards renewable sources of energy, such as biomass, solar, and wind (Hillstrom 24). The potential for energy held by shale gas cannot be denied, and it is the single swiftest emerging source of energy in the US, representing 30% of natural gas supplies today, up from 1% in 2000.
One benefit of fracking is that carbon emissions are said to be falling due to the amount of natural gas extracted through the process. This has resulted from the replacement of burning coal fuel with the use of shale gas during the production of electric power (Hillstrom 44). Therefore, it seems that there is a chance shale gas may replace fossil fuels in majority of US power plants. Another benefit is that the use of fracking will reduce the United States’ dependency on the Middle East for its energy needs, while it is also expected that increased development of the sector will result in additional jobs, already having provided 600,000 jobs in the year 2012. In addition, availability of cheaper gas in the United States will result in the increase of the country’s manufacturing capabilities in the face of increased competition from countries with cheaper labour (Hillstrom 45). It is also possible that the US will become a net exporter of energy as its production increases. Finally, fracking offers promise as the bridge between energy systems based on carbon from the past and a future that is greener and cleaner.
However, the practice also carries various disadvantages, especially with regards to the environment. First, the process requires the use of a lot of water, which could be regarded as the inefficient use of a precious commodity, while it also leads to the production of a lot of wastewater that could contaminate the ground water and flow into streams and rivers (Hillstrom 56). There is potential for drinking water to become cross-contaminated as aquifers are infiltrated by chemicals used in the fracturing process, as well as methane. This has already happened in Pittsburgh and Wyoming in Colorado. Limited and ineffective regulation policies are also risks, especially the 2005 Energy Policy Act that does not cover hydraulic fracturing as a program under the SDWA, UIC program. Creating artificial fractures in the earth also increases the risk and potential for seismic activity, especially regarding deep injection wells tat extend thousands of feet (Hillstrom 58). Finally, the process may also end up solidifying the United States reliance on fossil fuels, thus relegating renewable energy research to the background.
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Hillstrom, Kevin. Fracking. Detroit: Lucent Books, 2013. Print. Read More
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