Fracking is not contaminating groundwater according to the USGS; a fact that has been proven enough to sound like a broken record.
What does it take to change someone’s opinion on a subject? Many people believe the moon landing was fake and not even Buzz Aldrin could convince them otherwise. Some people still hold on to the misconception that vaccines cause autism based on one completely discredited study. Today’s climate is so torn, we spent weeks last year debating if a dress was blue or white and even after the designer showed the dress in better light, people still argued about it.
I do not see this trend going away as everyone is opinionated and what’s worse is social media sites like Facebook uses algorithms to show you things that you may like, often reinforcing your opinions – no matter how flawed.
One argument that does need to go the way of JNCO jeans is that fracking is contaminating groundwater. For the 7th time, a government study has shown it just doesn’t happen. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) recently released a report that came to the same conclusion as the EPA, National Energy Technology Laboratory, and U.S. Government Accountability Office among others; fracking is not a threat to groundwater. This time, the USGS studied 116 wells in Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana and found 9 wells that were contaminated; not by fracking, but from natural sources.
The natural contamination that was found, the researchers concluded, was not the fault of fracking:
“Methane isotopes and hydrocarbon gas compositions indicate most of the methane in the wells was biogenic and produced by the CO2 reduction pathway, not from thermogenic shale gas.”
The researchers did find benzene, the name of the scary contaminant fractivists love to say, at high levels. The high levels, in this case, was still attributed to natural sources and were in amounts some 40 times lower the safe limits for drinking water. Those are pretty good odds for groundwater over 2,500 years old.
Nothing, of course, will change the minds of those who oppose natural gas. I wish that I could hire someone to write a version of the song, “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man” that is based on all of the studies that have proven this point. Perhaps a few studies funded by environmentalist groups could be slowed down for dramatic effect. Studies such as Duke’s, funded by the Natural Resources Defense Council, or the nameless funders who asked the University of Cincinnati to keep their study quite would be good ones. I may develop a t-shirt with the studies listed on the back as if it were a band’s tour schedule.
If seven government agencies, can agree fracking poses no threat to groundwater, and other prove it is no threat to methane emissions or air pollution, then why are some governments opting to ban it? That is where special-interest politics and behind-closed-doors lawsuits such as those from California come into play. Yet, the truth outs, doesn’t it? Nick Grealy noted, way back in 2012, how curious it was that big insurers from his home city of London, were not at all scared of fracking and they’re the people who have to pay out hard cash when they’re wrong, so objective facts mean everything to them. The facts supported fracking then and then do even more so now.
We cannot change the minds of the unwilling, but we can continue to spread the good news to those who care!
Editor’s Note: Insurers are still very comfortable with fracking. The Willis Energy Market Review for 2017 says this in a chapter about fracking in the UK:
Concerns have been raised that both methane and fracking fluids could migrate from depth and potentially contaminate groundwater in aquifers. Various scare stories emanating from the US have fuelled the debate…
The conclusion for UK regulators and the government is that risks to potable supplies are low via migration of methane and fracking fluids from depth along fractures stimulated by the hydraulic fracturing process…
In the US, although there have been claims of contamination related to well integrity and safety, the actual number of incident claims is low…
Methane has been found in water wells in the US. However, the natural presence of gases and other contaminants in drinking-water wells is not new; in fact, there are a number of other potential sources of methane in the environment…
A number of chemicals that have commonly occurring sources, such as heavy metals, salts, and hydrocarbons, have been cited as evidence of contamination from fracking activities in the US, but have been proven to arise from other sources…
In conclusion, the UK shale gas industry is in its infancy, and a significant amount of exploration and testing is needed to accurately assess the viability of the UK shale gas resource. The process to obtain the necessary licences, permits, planning permission and other consents is lengthy and ensures that the UK onshore oil and gas regulations are among the most protective in the world. This regulatory regime will serve to mitigate potential harm to the environment in the same way as it does any other industrial process. In the debate as to whether fracking should be prevented due to concerns over risks to groundwater, decisions should be made on the basis of factual information and sound scientific analysis.