Hydraulic Fracturing: A Dangerous Compromise

It is a well-known fact that the vast majority of the world’s economy relies on the production and availability of petroleum. Petroleum consists of crude oil, which is known as a fossil fuel, created by the remains of plants and animals which have died millions of years ago. This crude oil, once harvested and refined, is used as one of the worlds largest sources of energy. Because oil is a non-renewable fossil fuel, there are many controversies surrounding the process in harvesting it in regards to the environmental impact it has on the public. Although the production and widespread use of oil has become a necessity to the world’s economy, minimizing the environmental impact and highly regarding public health and safety is also a necessity.

Petroleum producers use a process called hydraulic fracturing in order to harvest the crude oil. Hydraulic fracturing is the process of injecting water, sand, and certain chemicals underground at high pressures to crack open rocks that hold the oil and gas. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking” is the most common means for extracting oil from the earth. This method is used on more than 90 percent of all oil and gas wells in the United States (Hydraulic Fracturing). Although fracking has been proven to be the most sufficient way of extracting oil from the earth, there are some claims that it could be impacting theour environment in a negative way. During the fracking process, certain chemicals are used in order to reach the oil and protect the fracking equipment used. Some of these chemicals include benzene, methanol, and hydrochloric acid. However, these chemicals are absolutely necessary to use during the process as they help to kill microbes that may grow in the well and also prevent rust from forming on the equipment. The fracking process is often completed in several stages, often involving up to 5 million gallons of water, 2 million pounds of proppant, and hundreds of pounds of the added chemicals. Although there are claims that this process can impact the environment in a negative way, supporters claim that it is the best way to produce cheap natural gas that burns much more cleanly than other sources of energy such as coal or power plants. This process is also widely supported because many feels that being able to harvest the oil in America greatly reduces theour dependence on other countries to supply this need for us.

Although there are many concerns about safety surrounding the process of hydraulic fracturing, companies that use this method are well aware and take extra precautions in order to prevent such concerns. Companies that use hydraulic fracturing are sure to use highly trained experts, including safety instructors and managers that are always on site. Companies also have highly trained safety experts that are always on call if needed. Contrary to popular belief, companies do not just blindly select a site and drill. Before the process of hydraulic fracturing occurs, there are years of research and study conducted on the desired area. This research includes environmental effects, ground quality, and logistical planning. Drilling sites are also included in public debates before hydraulic fracturing occurs. Ensuring the public is well informed is always of the highest concern before drilling occurs.

There are also many emergency protocols set into place, including blowout preventions and well casings. A blowout may occur from the extremely high pressure of gases or oils while drilling. Blowout preventors consist of a series of valves that can immediately shut down the well and stop the flow of chemicals and water (Industry News). A well casing consists of lining the drilled hole with highly reinforced cement in order to prevent leaks to the surrounding land and water, and also helps to hold the wells open. Another important safety measure set in place is continual testing. During the process of hydraulic fracturing, the wells are tested before use and while in use. Specific monitoring systems are set in place so researchers are able to track the pressure, temperature, and air to ensure they stay in safe working ranges. The strength of the wells is also continuously tested by using what are called “bond logs”. Bond logs enable researches to measure the strength and durability of the cement well casings while the drilling process is occurring. Because of the implemented protocols of continual testing, researchers have found that from the years of 2008 and 2011 while observing 4,000 wells, there have only been 25 major instances of equipment failure, which is below a 1 percent failure rate. 

When searching the internet for trends in where hydraulic fracturing in America is most likely to occur, it becomes apparent that there are countless articles and information surrounding the hydraulic fracturing process occurring near lower class neighborhoods. When discovering these articles, it becomes apparentone will also find that there are countless articles pertaining towards the negative environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing. Petroleum companies are most likely highly aware of the news surrounding their choices of selecting locations to start the fracking process. This is clearly bad media for the petroleum companies. It only takes a few poor selections in locations before people will begin to protest and accuse these companies of income racism. The term “income racism” suggests that the less wealthy part of society, often including minorities, is discriminated against in terms of pollution and environmental dangers. It is clear that there is evidence supporting the negative impacts to the environment from hydraulic fracturing, that combined with fracking near low income neighborhoods has bad publicity written all over it. So, it is hypothesized that if petroleum companies were more carefully selective in their locations to perform hydraulic fracturing, that there would not be as harsh of backlash towards these companies. These locations should notn’t necessarily be off limits for petroleum companies though. However, petroleum companies should consider taking more time to refine the fracking process and improve public relations before doing so.

Companies that use hydraulic fracturing should be restricted on their ability to drill near low income residential neighborhoods and large residential water sources. Because of the already known environmental impacts surrounding hydraulic fracturing, the process should not be allowed near large residential water sources, especially because of the known harmful effects of the wastewater that is produced. An article published by “Inside Climate News,”, written by Brian Bienkowski states that “It is estimated that every well produces about five million liters of wastewater, which is eventually pumped into disposal wells”. Bienkowski also states that “research shows that areas with high percentages of minorities were twice as likely to be near wastewater wells and suffer health consequences. The statistics that can be found surrounding hydraulic fracturing and minority low income areas are harrowing. Although it may be entirely unintended that petroleum companies drill near these low-income neighborhoods, it needs to be addressed and action needs to be taken. Not only for the people of these neighborhoods, but also for the petroleum companies as well. Beinkowski also found that “people in areas were more than 80 percent minority were twice as likely to live near permitted wastewater wells than areas less than 20 percent minority.” If this issue is not swiftly addressed and a compromise is notn’t made, then both the residents of these neighborhoods and the petroleum companies will continue to suffer and struggle.

Not only does a compromise need to be discussed, a solution must be achieved. America must be able to utilize its own natural resources. There have already been great controversies surrounding drilling for oil in foreign countries, and war has often been the outcome. America is fighting against itself on this issue. It is clear that the constant need for petroleum products throughout the world is not going to end anytime soon, and the American economy benefits greatly from domestic drilling. First, it needs to be addressed that petroleum production companies are well aware of their drilling near low income areas and important fragile water sources. A compromise in regards to this situation can be as simple as passing a law restricting hydraulic fracturing to a certain number of miles within these areas. If these companies feel the absolute need to drill near these areas, the citizens of that city or state should be allowed to vote on that matter. Giving the citizens the ability to vote on this process will help the petroleum companies show that they have the people’s best interest in mind and they value their input. Another compromise that could be considered is that fracturing can be done near residential areas, as long as they can absolutely prove that none of the other resources in the area will be affected. If this means waiting until more research is done or better technological advancements have been made in order to better improve the process and protect the environment, then that should be agreed upon. Big oil companies supply the American people with massive amounts of job opportunities. America needs these companies, and these companies need the American people. It would look much better if these companies were to step up and adequately address these issues before they were forced to, and to work with the citizens of America in order to find a solution.

Works Cited

  • Bienkowski, Brian. “Poor Communities Bear Greatest Burden from Fracking.” Scientific American, 6 May 2015, www.scientificamerican.com/article/poor-communities-bear-greatest-burden-from-fracking/.
  • “Hydraulic Fracturing.” Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, Jan. 2018, p. 1; EBSCOhost, login.ezproxy.usd.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=funk&AN=hy115650&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
  • “Industry News.” Common safety precautions taken by fracking companies. Sept. 19, 2014. https://www.fbindustriesinc.com/news/2014/09/common-safety-precautions-taken-by-fracking-companies/
16 December 2021
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now