Fracking, another word for hydraulic fracturing, is a method used to recover gas and oil from shale by drilling down into the earth and directing a high-pressure mixture of water, sand, and proprietary chemicals into the rock. While energy companies view fracking as a profitable revolution in the industry, there are a number of concerns associated with the practice.
First, fracking requires huge amounts of water. Water transportation comes at a high environmental cost. Once mixed with fracking chemicals, water is unsuitable for human and animal consumption, though it is estimated that between 10 percent and 90 percent of the contaminated water is returned to the water cycle. Second, the chemicals used in a fracking mix are potentially carcinogenic. These chemicals may pollute groundwater near the extraction site. Industry leaders suggest that such contamination is unlikely, and that when it does occur, it is incidental and related to unavoidable human error rather than an expected risk of the practice, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s study of fracking is ongoing. The third concern is that fracking causes minor earthquakes by undermining the seismic stability of an area, though far more induced earthquakes are caused by traditional oil and gas production (USGS n.d.) Finally, gas is not a renewable source of energy; this is a negative in the eyes of those who oppose continued reliance on fossil fuels.