Hydrologic fracturing was a point of discussion in President Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union address.
Commonly known as “fracking,” hydrologic fracturing is a process that uses pressurized fluid to create cracks in shale deposits located deep underground to extract natural gas. President Obama supports it for an alternative energy and said fracking has the potential to support 600,000 new jobs. But not everyone agrees fracking is the best new energy alternative to coal and oil.
“I think fracking is bad,” Chloe Gleichman said. “I think that fracking is misleading, in the way that it’s portrayed in the media and through energy companies who say it’s a natural gas revolution. In reality, natural gas is just another fossil fuel, and that’s not a revolution”
Gleichman, a Saline sophomore and president of the Student Environmental Alliance at Central Michigan University, said in response to Obama’s push for fracking that we do not need jobs that poison us.
“We talk about job creation, stimulating the economy and making money,” she said. “The people who are making money off this are the couple of people in the energy industry who are raking in enormous profits at the expense of life, and that’s not responsible.”
Concerns about fracking are founded in the potential for it to contaminate the water supply.
“When we drill in complex geographical regions, we don’t always know what the underlying strata are,” said Professor Thomas Rohrer, director of the Great Lakes Institute for Sustainable Systems.
“There may be natural conduits that allow the drilling fluid to move back up into the aquifers, or there may be fractures that are created by the fracking that cause cracks leading up to the water aquifers,” Rohrer said.
But water supply contamination is not the only concern.
“With fracking, there is also the potential that it could release methane gas, which contributes to global warming, because it is a greenhouse gas,” he said.
A New York Times article reported a 4.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Youngstown, Ohio in late December, the second that month, and specialists believe the evidence points to fracking.
Rohrer said sometimes fracking fluid under pressure may leak from a well and lubricate different rock, which cause them to slip and move, resulting in an earthquake.
At Central Michigan University, the SEA, a campus organization dedicated to the promotion of environmental awareness and sustainable lifestyles, plans on providing a resolution to the Mount Pleasant City Council that would ban fracking in the area.
They are working on sending letters with information to council members and then hope to present their resolution to the council within the next two weeks.
Gleichman said she hopes the city council will enact SEA’s resolution and ban fracking but also just wants to raise awareness about the issue.
“So many people will be approached for their land to be used for fracking, and they’ll sign it because of the money, and then have to deal with the problems afterward,” Gleichman said.
Mary Graham, a Mount Pleasant resident, said she is also concerned about fracking.
“I worry about it a great deal, because I don’t think that they have explored the possible problems, particularly with the water,” she said.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has stated some of it’s major concerns regarding pertinence to fracking are protecting water aquifers, water volume, managing water disposal and chemical identification.
As fracking sites increase in Michigan, the state has taken one step toward the regulation of water withdrawal, as fracking can use about 50,000 to 500,000 gallons of water per site.
Yet, as a $2 billion dollar industry in Michigan, Rohrer said he does not see fracking as something that will go away but said it needs to be done properly.
Though the Environmental Projection Agency has proposed regulations, they have been slow to keep up with the production curve, he said.
“We are all responsible. We all use the energy. If we want it, we need to make a compromise,” Rohrer said. “There are environmental, human and health risks involved. There’s always a cost, and we have to be willing to pay the cost.”