There have been many articles recently about the increase in US based oil production and foreign oil dependency, and to tell the truth a lot of it seems one sided or biased. Of course that all depends on the source you have chosen to view. From CNN.com to Fox News, it is all relative to your perception of what you want to understand about the issue.
One thing that is certain is that we need to become more energy independent, and cut out foreign oil dependency- there is no argument there. The argument is how we get there to become energy independent. Whether it is the same old fossil fuels, coal or clean coal, solar or wind energy. The subject matter is energy independence. At current count, according to the IEA the US is set to become the biggest oil producer by the year 2020 and totally energy independent 10 years after that. From 2008 to 2011 the production of US oil has increased by 14% and natural gas increased 10%.
The states that have seen the increase of the oil production, in some cases, have also seen an increase to the economy in that state. Some states not so much. Texas, North Dakota, California, Alaska and Oklahoma are the top producers of oil in the US. With 1.5 million barrels a day during 2011 in Texas alone to 728,000 barrels a day in North Dakota. The US is producing it’s fair share of oil, whether or not it is quality is a different subject.
The crude oil that is taken from the earth is measured in a couple of different ways. Density and sulfur content are the most important characteristics of quality when it comes to usable oil. The crude that is produced for gasoline and diesel fuels are a light sweet crude; low sulfur and lower density. The light sweet crude can be produced at a cheaper, less sophisticated and energy intensive process.
With the production of this natural resource rising why isn’t the cost dropping at the same rate? That is my question.
One of the newest methods used in this increase of production is called Fracking, Hydrofracturing or Hydrofracking; you can use any of those terms and most people will understand what you are talking about. Many states, county and local governments, along with it’s citizenry, have taken many steps to prevent this from happening in their communities. And their reasoning for this is sound and worthy of their cause.
When it comes to this method of getting the earth to release the natural resource the costs are high. Economically and ecologically. First you have to drill a hole, then you have to pump water into the hole and then you have to put enough pressure on the water to make the shale fracture and release the resource. So why is it so controversial? Let’s take a look at it.
Each site needs at least 400 tankers to transport water using anywhere between one and eight million gallons of water. It is then mixed with sand and chemicals, 40,000 gallons of chemicals, to create the fracking fluid. Included in the chemicals used to create this fluid are known carcinogens and toxins. Toxins like lead, uranium, mercury, radium, methanol, hydrochloric acid, ethylene glycol and formaldehyde.
It is then pressured into the ground to a depth of 10,000 feet through the drilled hole. When the fluid reaches the end of the well the shale rock will crack and release the natural gas that is hidden in it. This is the way fracking works. Pretty simple. Let’s see, 500,000 active natural gas wells along with 8 million gallons of water per fracture and each well is tapped at least eighteen times. 72 trillion gallons of water and 360 million gallons of chemicals. What is the problem with that?
When the process is done only about 50% of the fracking fluid is recovered. With the rest of the fluid left in the ground and what is recovered is left in open air pits to evaporate. Releasing VOC’s into the atmosphere, (Volatile Organic Compounds). This creates contaminated air along with ground level ozone.
The fracking fluid, which isn’t biodegradable, that isn’t recovered is known to get into the drinking water wells of nearby sities and towns. Cases of sensory, respiratory and neurological issues have arisen due to the consumption of this contaminated drinking water.
This is one of the new methods that is used to help the US become more energy independent. This is the price we are paying to become more energy independent. What is the cost in the end?
- The Allegiant: The Dangers of Fracking (With Videos)