Fracking: A Deadly Power Surge

Fracking PennJill Richardson, Guest
Waking Times

Jacki Schilke was suffering from symptoms ranging from rashes, pain, and lightheadedness to dental problems and urinating blood. The formerly healthy, 53-year-old cattle rancher’s body was under assault from a list of toxic chemicals as long as your arm.

But Schilke’s lucky — so far — compared to five of her cows. They died.

The rancher’s problems might become worse in time, since the chemicals causing her acute problems are also linked to chronic, deadly diseases like cancer.

What’s afflicting Schilke and her cows? The oil and gas drilling craze known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. As The Nation magazine and the Great Plains Examiner reported last year, Oasis Petroleum started fracking on land three miles from her ranch in 2010. Oasis got money, the world got more energy from the gas they drilled, and Schilke got sick. Now, she won’t even eat her own beef.

If the results of fracking were virtually unknown a decade ago, before it became a common practice in states like Pennsylvania and Schilke’s home of North Dakota, there’s no mystery remaining now.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, when you pump a cocktail of toxic chemicals into the ground to dislodge fossil fuels, there’s a cocktail of toxic chemicals in the ground. And some of those toxins don’t stay put. They make their way into the water, the soil, and the air.

And the toxins flow from there into the living things that rely on the water: the soil, the air, plants, animals, and us. We’re fracking our food.

Yet President Barack Obama is a big fracking supporter. He called natural gas a form of “clean energy” in the big address on global warming he delivered in June, touting the nation’s production of more natural gas “than any other country on Earth.” Then he said, “We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions.”

Right. Compared to other forms of dirty energy, natural gas might reduce our carbon emissions. But at what cost?

If our only energy options were oil, coal, and natural gas, we’d be in a rotten Catch-22. Luckily, we have more choices than that. There are growing solar, wind, and geothermal options. Perhaps the most overlooked alternative is increasing efficiency.

I visited the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, two years ago. The school had made a big effort to reduce its energy use. In one building, I saw a hallway that used to have its lights turned on all the time. The builders had never even installed switches to turn them off.

Decades ago, energy was “too cheap to meter.” It seemed cheaper to just leave the lights on all the time than to wire them to be turned off. That’s changed. After some retrofitting, the lights can be turned off.

How many other buildings and homes have no light switches, insufficient insulation, or old, power-guzzling appliances? How many are still being built without taking advantage of the most up-to-date methods that curb energy use?

Obama proudly spoke of doubling America’s use of solar and wind power in the last four years, with plans to double them yet again. He’s right. We increased wind and solar energy from less than 1 percent of our energy in 2007 to less than 2 percent in 2011. (Meanwhile, our reliance on natural gas crept up from 28 percent to 30 percent of total energy consumption, and our total use of energy overall rose in those four years by 9.4 percent — with most of the increase coming from dirty sources.)

Fracking might be profitable, but whether it’s good for anything else is doubtful. Emissions during the fracking process outweigh any benefits of reduced emissions when the fuel obtained is burned. Besides, how does fracking American land make sense if it’s poisoning our food and water supply with chemicals that give us cancer?

Let’s solve our energy problems by increasing efficiency and by turning to truly clean sources of energy: renewable options like solar, wind, and geothermal power.

About the Author

Jill Richardson is a columnist for OtherWords and the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.

This article originally appeared at OtherWords.

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

  • Chad

    The only things we count by the billions on earth are microrganisms, insects, grains of sand, and humans 🙂

    • sunny

      @Chad….add another…..billions of $. Yep, all that greed by a select few. What I would do with billions to help this planet…..
      Peace to you and yours.

  • Chad

    Sorry, I meant “8 million sq.mi.” above, not “8 billion”.

  • Chad

    “Let’s solve our energy problems by increasing efficiency and by turning to truly clean sources of energy: renewable options like solar, wind, and geothermal power.” — I agree with the other poster: these things are not “efficient”. It takes almost as much energy to make, maintain, and dispose of a solar cell as it does to manufacture it; and wind turbines are one of the most expensive forms of generating electricty and they operate unpredictably. Geothermal is nice, but very expensive. seems to offer a nearly free form of energy, but I am not sure this is positive. Mankind may simply go nuts with “free energy” and it will be the final deathblow to anything near “natural life” on the entire planet. Antarctica could become a giant NYC, and the world could have 100 billion people – I don’t want to live in that world. I wish I was born 100 years ago 🙂 Some people are more fascinated by nature than by people, and they have no place in that future.
    Also, “increasing efficiency” is just another way of complaining “there is not enough to go around”, which applies to a wide range of resources. There are 8 billion sq.mi. of arable land on earth, about 8 Alaska’s, for all wood products, clothing/medicinal/food/animal crops, ranching, etc, and that works out to about 44x44yds per person, which is very minimal. Not many agree, but population growth is the most major underlying factor to all major problems on earth. Maximum population is not Optimal population. The scary part is that when population growth stops, economic growth stops, and the entire system collapses, and we revert back to the agrarian age or earlier almost instantly, and all you got is what you got, and if you “ain’t got land, you ain’t got s….”

  • Chad

    Slightly off point, but I wish people would demand scientific evidence of nuclear energy, eg, a demonstration of uranium rods being put into water, thus making it boil. Our “belief” in nuclear energy is just a belief/faith/religion. I spent several months contacting many major university physics departments/professors, and all the major nuclear commissions and activist organizations, and I cannot find a single piece of scientific evidence for nuclear energy/bombs. The mathematics is all based on 1940s testing data made by a select few individuals. I won’t waste time or space on this, but if you can grasp the nuclear theories and care to investigate scientifically, the evidence rests on data of a very few individuals. Nuclear reactors could be indigent crematories for all we know. Also, methane is as pure “carbon-emitting” as you can get – it breaks down into H20 & CO2, but can’t we let the “global warming” thing rest? Everybody should be aware of the scientific frauds relating to this.
    All you have to do is look at chemtrails to notice “climate change” within a few hours. Humanity may go mad trying to accomodate more and more with less and less. There is no Star-Trek future (cosmic radiation can’t imaginably be overcome), and this is all we got, and when people exceed resources, they become cannibals, fact.

  • annie

    You wont solve these problems until you “solve” your people, your politicians. it’s because americans can be bought – for peanuts essentially – that you are dieing, murdered by your own profit monsters.

  • dimitri ledkovsky

    Solar, wind, geothermal, tidal and the rest of them are high investment, high maintenance and low reliability. Fracking products and the other “fossil” fuels, and atomic, are also nutso to continue with. That’s the real conundrum. But the salient question is: Do we really need all this “energy” consumption? It hasn’t improved quality of life for countless billions. Only the sociopathic greedheads seem to need it to thrive. Does individual self examination stand a chance of pulling us out of the death spiral we’re in right now?

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