Fracking methods are associated with a wide range of damaging environmental impacts, not all of which are fully understood. Besides the toxic and carcinogenic chemicals used in the process, which can contaminate ground water, it’s estimated that between 2-4 million gallons of water is used in the lifetime of a single well. Depending on the location of the drilling site, the volume of water needed could present a significant problem, with possibly hundreds of trucks being needed to transport water to the extraction site, straining the local infrastructure and adding to it’s carbon footprint.
The overall effect of drilling for shale gas on global warming is as yet unclear but it has been reported that shale gas emits much more methane than conventional gas. Methane has the global warming potential of 105 times that of carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. The environment will also suffer with drilling sites blotting the landscape and potential blow-outs, which are a risk in all oil and gas drilling activity.
In mid 2011, shale gas drilling near Blackpool, triggered an earthquake measuring 2.3 on the richter scale. Two months later it triggered another measuring 1.5. The tremors were caused by a very modest amount of drilling. In full production, with the country overwhelmed by a rush for energy and profit, there would have to be certainty that multiple simultaneous frackings would not trigger more severe quakes.
Shale gas has been said to buy us time, but who is to say that the powers that be would do anything constructive with that time. Would they not be more likely they would take their feet of the pedals and rest assured that our demands for energy are met for the time being?