Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fracking crazy

One of these days, our energy addiction is going to destroy this planet. A new peer-reviewed study, conducted by Duke University and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, discovered severe methane contamination in the proximity of gas fracking extractions:

“Our results show evidence for methane contamination of shallow drinking water systems in at least three areas of the region and suggest important environmental risks accompanying shale gas exploration worldwide,” the article states. [...]

In Dimock, Pa., where part of the Duke study was performed, some residents’ water wells exploded or their water could be lit on fire. In at least a dozen cases in Colorado, ProPublica’s investigation found, methane had infiltrated drinking water supplies that residents said were clean until hydraulic fracturing was performed nearby. [...]

Methane is not regulated in drinking water, and while research is limited, it is not currently believed to be harmful to drink. But the methane is dangerous because as it collects in enclosed spaces it can asphyxiate people nearby, or lead to an explosion.
I wonder how it's possible something that can asphyxiate you is still safe to drink, but that aside, how is it possible that there's "an exemption in federal law that prohibits the EPA from regulating hydraulic fracturing?" That's a rhetorical question, of course. The answer is obviously industry campaign donations.

The study suggests the methane migration could be natural seepage. However, my unscientific guess is when they're drilling through porous rock, the drilling process itself would open new rifts that allows the gas to migrate.

And another downside to the study is they found no evidence of contamination by the chemicals used in the fracking process which will surely be seized on by the gas corps to justify continuing the operations unfettered by tiresome safety regulations. However, if memory serves, we don't actually know chemicals they are using because it's an industry secret. So the study raises as many questions as it answers, but one thing is clear. This process is dangerous and there's so many unknown hazards, there should be an immediate moratorium on any fracking until those questions are fully answered.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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