Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock. Fracking allows the world to retain natural gas from depths that were deemed unreachable by conventional technology. Recent advancements in Fracking technology have propelled America to the forefront of natural gas extraction. By this method, the shale rock is punctured with a high pressure fluid, causing it to rupture and allow the movement of petroleum and brine.
After the fluid fractures the rock, the pressure is emoved as well, and small pieces of aluminum oxide (hydraulic fluid) hold the fractures open. The shale rock, permeable to all natural gases, then is available for extraction. Fracking has endless possibilities, Chief executive officer of Chesapeake Energy Corporation Aubrey McClendon said, Natural gas is the one fuel that we have that’s affordable, it’s scaleable, it can replace coal over time, it can replace imported oil, can create American jobsl . It is clear that Fracking is a ground breaking technology.
However, Fracking is a rather controversial topic, as economists and nvironmentalists debate whether the economic gains outweigh the detrimental effect it has on the environment. Fracking enables America to be the third largest producer of petroleum and brine in the world since it tripled domestic gas production over the last ten year, thereby, allowing the US to be less oil dependent on other countries. On the other hand, Fracking is destructive to the environment since it releases carcinogens and toxic chemicals and pollutes the drinking water in proximity to the plant.
History Injecting fluid to stimulate shale rock has existed since the 1860s. In 1 930, here was initial attempts to inject non explosive fluid into the shale rock which allowed natural gas to leak out. Approximately twenty years later, the first hydraulic fracturing of wells was introduced by Stanolind Oil. However, after two years, Halliburton company became the first company to fracture at an industrial level. It was not until 1974 that the government started to regulate the pollution level of drinking water. Congress stated that fracking does not contaminate water and does not negatively affect the environment.
In 2000, present day fracking technology was introduced and put into effect in Texas. Five years later the fracking boom started after the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that it is not allowed under their power to investigate a natural gas company. However, in 201 0, the government broke their laissez- faire policy with oil extraction, and is currently investigating the impact of hydraulic fracturing on the environment. Economic Advantages The Fracking technology is responsible for the increase in Oil and gas production.
In 201 1, the US produced 8,500,983 million cubic feet of natural gas from shale gas wells, a value of about $36 billion, due to shale gas alone2. America is now the world’s largest producer of natural gas. As a result, imported gases compose merely eight percent of total natural gas consumption in the United States. Since America does not rely on imported gas, the United states has balanced it trade as the US’ domestic supply has grown to meet its demand. Business magnate T. Boone Pickens simply states, Natural gas is the best transportation fuel. It’s better than gasoline or diesel. It’s cleaner, it’s cheaper, and it’s domestic.
Natural gas is 97 percent domestic fuel, North America3. Hydraulic fracturing has also created thousand of new jobs accross the country. In total, hydraulic fracturing directly and indirectly have been responsible for employing over 850,000 employees. In 2020, it is projected that smart drilling4 will employee 1. 5 million employees. These onsite jobs on average pay more than twenty nine dollars per hour. This average rate exceeds the national rate; by sixteen percent. Additionally, hydraulic fracturing enables the American public to access energy at a much lower cost. Thus, Fracking has a very positive effect on the American economy.
However, some environmentalists think that this will lead to Americans abuse Of energy and Other detrimental effects. Environmental Damages Hydraulic Fracking negatively affects the environment in many different ways. Fracking contaminates the drinking water in the proximity of the Fracking plant. Fracking also pollutes the air with methane, exposes people to toxic chemicals and has an impact on the climate. Fracking increases of risks of babies born with low birth weight by more than half, these numbers are comparable to the Chernobyl disasters. Fracking produces an extreme amount of waste that taints the area in which it is disposed.
Fracking is also an extremely dangerous job, as there are over 0 onsite deaths per year. Fracking employees are also vulnerable to many diseases due to the chemicals used in fracking. A study shows, Air sampling results show that the majority of silica levels at hydraulic fracturing sites were above the Occupational Safety and Health Administration allowable standard and 84% were above Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s new proposed standard. These exposure levels put workers, particularly sand mover operators and T-belt operators who had the highest levels, at risk of silicosis and the other silica-related conditions6.
Countries7 all over the world ave banned this extraction practice, and even certain districts8 within the US have banned Fracking. After the process of fracking is finalized, liquids that were injected into the ground “flow back” to the surface. This wastewater is named ‘flowback” can contain poisonous substances that can rise up to the surface and infect nearby wildlife and civilization. This toxins, include, arsenic, barium, lead, mercury, and radioactive elements like radium9. Social + Environmental + Political Benefits Despite such risks, if F-racking is executed properly, it can actually benefit the environment.
Fracking can emit less carbon emissions than regular gas drilling. The statement that fracking can benefit the environment is reinforced by Chief executive office of Exxon Mobile, Rex W. Tilerson. He sates, Natural gas obviously brings with it a number of quality-of-life environmental benefits because it is a relatively clean-burning fuel. It has a C02 footprint, but it has no particulates. It has none of the other emissions elements that are of concern to public health that other forms of power-generation fuels do have: coal, fuel oil, others10. Fracking on a national scale has increased our national safety.
Since the United States has become less oil dependent, it is no longer forced to have a friendly relationship with corrupt countries. Many fracking experts predict that America will be energy self-sufficient by 2030. Political Debate Fracking also has had a great impact on politics and has become a common topic in political discussions. A majority of politicians find it difficult to oppose Fracking because of its clear positive effect On the economy. Even in the most environmentally aware states politicians find it hard to pass a moratorium on fracking.
However, fracking still remains an unsettled issue in many states in America. Utilitarian Plans Many Americans think that taking a utilitarian approach to fracking is the best solution to this ongoing debate. While Utilitarianism attempts to maximize the good of an action for the most number of people, Fracking can still impinge on the rights of a minority stakeholder or an individual. There are two extreme opinions that can be implemented using this approach to address the debate over Fracking. The first plan is to allow the F-racking industry to frack anywhere they desire without government regulations or oversight.
Based on the honor code, the racking company would take as many measures as possible to reduce water contamination, and other negative effects of fracking. By trusting the fracking companies, a great deal of money will be saved. The companies will not have to pay for water monitoring systems and other systems designed to protect the environment will not have to be used. This would greatly decrease energy and gas prices, and place the prices at an all time low. This would also allow us to be the largest gas producer in the world by 2019. This plan can increase fracking jobs and lower energy costs, which would benefit the American public.
However, Fracking would lead to enormous spikes in pollution, would damage nearby bodies of water and contaminate aquifers and decrease the property value of homes nearby the plant. This utilitarian approach would consider the economic gains to benefit the majority, and the environmental losses only impinge on a small minority. The other plan would have full state government intervention and regulation of fracking. Such regulations would make F-racking so expensive to perform that it will no longer be a cost effective extraction process and Fracking will gradually come to a halt.
The state government will limit the umber of fracking sites per state and each fracking company will have to pay a five percent royalty to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. If carcinogens or other toxic chemicals are given off and pollute the air or water, the fracking plant will immediately be forced to close down and will need to reimburse all damages it causes. This plan will lead to great inflation in prices of energy and gas and will limit the US’ oil exportation, forcing America to be almost as oil dependent on other countries as they once were before hydraulic fracturing.
However, this plan will reduce all nvironmental harms caused by fracking. Water contamination and toxins in the air will be eliminated due to regulated fracking within the respective state. Combination Plan Both of these plans are too radical and will never be executed by the government. A possible combination Of these two extremes, can be formulated which would be mutually beneficial to both sides of the debate. As politician Bill Richardson stated, Fracking is doable if there’s full disclosure of all chemicals used. Secondly, science dictates the policy rather than politics.
Third, there’s collaboration between environmental groups and the natural as industryl 1. This plan would allow fracking but would limit the amount of fracking sites in a given state. The number of fracking zones allowed will be based on population and amount of shale rock available. For every 75,000 people in the state one fracking plant will be allowed. However, if there is an abundance of shale rock in a particular area, the fracking company will be permitted to propose a safe extraction process in that area. If their proposal is accepted, then regulating rules will be suspended.
The proposal, however, can be rejected if the government thinks that it will hurt the people ore than it will help them. There is also an incentive system built into this plan. If the fracking companies are able to prove that they have caused no environmental damage at all in a span of a year then the population to fracking plant ratio will decrease by 2,000 people per year. This program will force the companies to be extra cautious with their excretion of waste and other negative effects of the process that can hurt the environment.
Geopolitics of Fracking In the 1950’s, the United States produced about 500,000 barrels of oil per day, it was not until 1 970 when America hit one million barrels of oil per day. Since the fracking boom we have tripled 1 970’s production, and in 2030 the production will triple 201 0 production (9 million barrels per day). For the last forty years the United States has put a ban on Oil and natural gas exportation. The United States restricted oil exportation in the 1 970’s in response to the OPECI 2 cartel cutting production, which drove up fuel cost for all Americans.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a permanent, intergovernmental Organization, created at the Baghdad Conference on September 10”14, 1960, by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The five Founding Members were later joined by nine other Members: Qatar (1 961); Indonesia (1962) – suspended its membership from January 2009; Libya (1962); United Arab Emirates (1967); Algeria (1969); Nigeria (1 971); Ecuador (1973) – suspended its membership from December 1992-0ctober 2007; Angola (2007) and Gabon (1975-1994).
OPEC had its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in the first five years of its existence. This was moved to Vienna, Austria, on September 1, 1965. OPECs objective is to co-ordinate and unify petroleum policies among Member Countries, in rder to secure fair and stable prices for petroleum producers; an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations; and a fair return on capital to those investing in the industry13. If the United States would lift the ban there would be numerous geopolitical changes, and there would also be a few positive economic outcomes.
If America lifts the exportation ban it will directly boost domestic Oil production and cut gasoline prices. The shale boom has given America a luxury of having an excess supply of oil. The consumer will benefit through higher real incomes and lower energy prices. The United States producers of oil would now be able to sell crude oil at a higher cost into the global market than they are able to in the domestic market. Many United States company, such as Cheniere Energy, has invested billions of dollars in preparation to export natural gas.
The Cheniere Energy has dedicated a project called the Sabine Pass project. This project will cost north of twelve billion dollars. The company is setting up a liquefaction terminal and will begin chilling the gas so it is able to be transported to Europe and Asia. Additionally, if the ban is lifted it will affect international olitics. If the LJnited States were able to sell crude to Europe for a projected $9. 64/m British Thermal Units. This would allow Europe access to cheap gas, and most importantly will allow Europe to not be oil dependent on Russia.
Over thirty percent of Europe’s gas is from Russian oil providers. If America’s exportation ban is lifted than Europe does not have to rely on Russia for oil. If Europe is no longer dependent on Russia, than it allows Europe to be more forceful in the argument over who should rule over Ukraine. This will also decrease Putin’s immense power over Eastern Europe. The revoking of the an will also affect Venezuela. Venezuela’s economy is extremely reliant on their oil revenue. Since Europe and other countries are dependent on Venezuela for oil, Venezuela is able to charge a little over hundred dollars per barrel.
If the United States would be able to supply Venezuela’s consumers with oil, they would receive a forty three percent price decrease with a barrel costing around fifty-eight dollars. This could be destroy the Venezuela, who earns ninety-six percent of its foreign currency in oi114. If the price per barrel even dropped by five dollars that is around a thirty five million dollars of lost rofit. If Venezuelan crude is no longer the alpha male it can lead to a mutiny of Maduro’s government. Affects of Lifting the Ban on OPEC As of 201 5, crude oil prices have hit an all time low: 48 dollars per barrel.
On the contrary, estimates show that there is too much oil in the United Sates and domestic demand will fall in 201 6, leaving a surplus of oil with no purpose. Meanwhile, The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries are consistently producing oil on a grand scale. OPEC is willing to lose a lot of money because they are hopeful that plummeting prices will make United States fracking an unprofitable venture. OPEC is trying to remain king of the oil industry and keep United States in a consumer, oil dependent country.
However, the united States have a strong countermove: lifting the forty year ban on gas exports. The only reason why the United States is even able to do this is because of fracking. Fracking has allowed for 9. 08 million barrels of oil per day within America. This ludicrous number has the IJnited States on top as the largest producer of liquefied natural gas. In an effort to regain control, OPEC decided to reduce Oil prices. This would negatively affect America ecause fracking is very expensive, and if the fracking companies are not making enough return on their money, fracking will no longer be cost effective.
This plan already has succeeded and led to some cutbacks in major oil companiesl 5. Conversely, in the Bakken formation in North Dakota, American companies are able to be profitable at barrels as low as forty two dollars, but most companies cannot survive with barrels under sixty dollars. Furthermore, OPEC is also hurting from the deflation of oil prices. Venezuela and Nigeria need at least a hundred and twenty dollars to be profitable, while Iran needs around hundred thirty six dollars per barrel 16.
The real debate at hand is which can survive these extreme cutbacks, OPEC or the United States natural gas industry. If the United States decides not to lift the ban, than it is clear OPEC will remain profitable and continue to monopolize the market. However, if the ban is lifted than America is able to export, which would ensure profits for companies selling barrels even as low as thirty eight dollars. If America spins the policies the right way, in 2030, America can control the oil market and be a respected exporter.