Natural Gas Production: Is it Worth the Cost?

Essay by cookb3College, UndergraduateA, November 2014

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Natural Gas Production: Is it Worth the Cost?

Interpretation (25)

Despite advancements in fracking technology lowering gas prices, its negative environmental and human externalities are too steep. Fracking is not a sustainable long-term energy option.

Analysis (417)

When burned, natural gas emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere despite its promotion as green. By 2035 shale gas is expected to comprise 45%. This will lead to environmental degradation because it has a greater greenhouse-gas footprint than conventional fuel, partly due to its methane emissions. It produces up to two times more methane compared to conventional gas during extraction, which "is a powerful greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential that is far greater than that of carbon dioxide" (Howarth, Santoro & Ingraffea, 2011; p.

679). These gasses also come from trucks, compressors, and on-site machinery used during operations. If fracking continues to grow, more drill sites will be created, and the amount of carbon dioxide and methane released into the atmosphere will spike.

Fracking also has the potential to harm human health. The fracking process involves high pressure pumping of 'fracking fluid' into the ground to create fissures, enabling gas extraction. The fluid contains water, sand, ceramics, organic compounds (including benzene, toluene and xylene, all of which are found in either oil or gasoline), acids, and inorganic chemicals that make horizontal drilling possible (Ahearn, 2012; p. 4). A 2010 study "assessed the chemicals used in fracturing and found that 73% of the products had between 6 and 14 different adverse health effects including skin, eye, and sensory organ damage; respiratory distress including asthma; gastrointestinal and liver disease; brain and nervous system harms; cancers; and...