By Devon Patterson – Cougar News Contributor
What if I was to tell you that in less than 20 years, water will be worth more than gold? How you would feel if you knew that the United States government could have prevented this problem–a problem that was easily avoidable.
A new type of energy transition commonly called “shaleing,” and the dangerous process of hydraulic fracturing is becoming very popular in the U.S., and is even being referred to as America’s next gold rush.
My grandfather enlightened me on hydraulic fracturing over a year ago, when he was looking to buy some land in Colorado. He had stumbled upon acres and acres of land that seemed too good to be true, and that’s exactly what it turned out to be. The land had been corrupted by big oil companies since the 1990s and had ruined the water supply. With oil prices well over $100 a barrel, the dangerous process of shaleing has an opportunity to gain ground, however the public must realize just how dangerous the side effects are.
This type of fossil fuel known as shale is in abundance in the U.S., however, the process in which we draw out this fossil fuel poses enormously harmful to the public’s health, and could potentially destroy all – yes all – of America’s drinking water.
Shale is located miles underground, and luckily, for Americans, we have a gold mine right beneath our feet. According to the EPA, “nearly 62% of the world’s potentially recoverable oil shale resources are concentrated in the United States.” A majority of the shale deposits can be found in Northwest Region of Colorado along the Green River formation, along with Northeast Utah and Southwest Wyoming.
Halliburton Oil invented hydraulic fracturing in the 1940s. The process involves a mixture of primarily water, along with sand and toxic chemicals. The mixture is then drilled into the ground horizontally. Once the drill is inserted, the mixture is then flooded into the ground, fracturing the shale and releasing the gas. This type of drilling has been taking place for the past ten years or so, in 34 states. Currently, America is in the largest natural gas surge in history. The U.S. is now known as the “Saudi Arabia” of energy resources underneath our own land.
There are about 596 chemicals that are drilled into the ground daily. These chemicals consist of known carcinogens, which are cancer-causing agents, similar to ones found in cigarettes. Also integrated in the 596 chemicals drilled into the ground are proprietary chemicals. Proprietary chemicals are those in which do not have to be disclosed, due to a “top secret recipe” type of information. Oil companies state that if they were to release the proprietary chemicals that their business is open to profit loss, and they would lose their competitiveness from the disclosure of information, due to the value of their own “recipe,” so to speak. Unfortunately, these chemicals are kept for the company’s use only, and may not even be shared with the federal government, or the Environmental Protection Agency.
In 2004, the EPA conducted a study under Administrator Carol Browner. In the conclusion of the study she stated: “There is no evidence that the hydraulic fracturing at issue has resulted in any contamination or endangerment of underground sources of drinking water.”
Although Browner states that there is no evidence of contamination, the researchers of the study are questionable. Five of the seven members of the study’s review panel have ties to oil companies. In a 2004 letter to congress, Weston Wilson, an EPA employee since 1974, stated that hydraulic fracturing was, “scientifically unsound and contrary to the purposes to the (Safe Water Drinking Act.) Based on the available science and literature, EPA’s conclusions are unsupportable. Members of the panel appear to have conflicts-of-interest and may benefit from EPA’s decision not to conduct further investigation or impose regulatory conditions.”
In 2005, President George W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act.” In this act under the Natural Gas section was a couple sentences exempting hydraulic fracturing through a provision in the bill dubbed the “Halliburton Loophole.” The loophole was inserted by then Vice President Dick Cheney–the former Halliburton CEO. In this loophole, the EPA lost all of its authority to regulate fracturing taking place in the United States.
For the regulators that are in place, there are simply too few. For example, in West Virginia there are 17 inspectors to visit the state’s gas wells. This number is absurd, due to the fact that the state currently has 55,222 oil wells, and that number is growing rapidly. The only number that should be growing is the amount of inspectors, and appallingly, that number is decreasing. Larry Parrish, a former inspector for the Department of Environmental Protection’s office of oil and gas stated of the situation in West Virginia; “It was sad, sickening, it probably had been years since anybody had been out there. You just can’t do it, physically. You’ve got to put out the hottest fires and there was a lot of stuff that slipped through the cracks because no one was looking.”
When oil companies drill for shale gas, there are a number of dangerous side effects that take place. Water contamination is the major problem as a result of natural gas drilling. After the drilling takes place, citizens in the town complain that their water is no longer drinkable. Imagine no longer being able to shower in your own home, or wash your dishes, without having to purchase that water from the store first.
The government is finally taking action on the matter, but the country as a whole must become informed of this hidden disaster. The government, along with big oil companies, insists that the process as safe. However, if it is so safe why must oil companies be exempt from regulation today and against it in the future? Sure, our country must turn away from our dependence of foreign oil, but natural gas is not the answer. Our country must look into other alternatives, such as solar energy, which will not only benefit the country, and the environment, but the people of the U.S. will be free of contaminated water.