Fracking's Political Chokehold
by Ariana Seniuk
One of the continuously debated geopolitical topics penetrating the conversation of energy security is hydraulic fracking and whether or not restrictions should be enacted in order to help transition away from fossil fuels. Many recognize fracking as instrumental for the United States in becoming a global leader in natural gas and crude oil production and as a prominent addition to the economy. But, discoveries have been made on the adverse impacts hydraulic fracking has on local communities as well as the world since it was popularized in the 1980's. The environmental and public health effects have caused communities to plead for suspension and regulation with little action in response.
In order to understand the negative environmental impacts, it is important to know how fracking works. In simplified terms, fracking works by injecting water and chemicals deep into the earth at extremely high pressure to break up layers of rock that harbor deposits of natural gas and/or oil. This innovation was born out of desperation for more oil and gas from harder to reach places. But, the proven health and environmental risks cannot be suppressed when local communities and peoples long term health is at risk.
The Journal of Homeland Security and Affairs writes how chemical spills from the process have contaminated the soil and surface water with a potential for contaminating groundwater. A video even went viral of a woman in Colorado lighting her tap water on fire due to the pollution of methane into the groundwater from fracking. Studies have proven a connection between methane's contamination of drinking water and nearby fracking which is not healthy for the public or our environment. Communities nearby have seen increased adverse pregnancy outcomes, cancer incidence, hospitalizations and asthma.
The Yale School Of Public Health explains more in depth about the environmental impacts of fracking on the area and their intersection on public health. The fluids companies use for fracking in the US contain highly toxic chemicals as well as unknown chemicals which the industry has written off as trade secrets, all of which are being released into the environment with little tangible regulation. Communities and advocacy groups have organized and begged elected officials for protection from the adverse effects of fracking yet the chokehold Gas and oil companies have on elected officials has halted necessary action.
Biden’s campaign promised moving forward with environmental policy which would promote a reduction on fossil fuel reliance and a switch towards sustainable energy infrastructure. He even vowed to ban new drilling, including fracking on public lands a few weeks after he was elected. A part of this plan, would be to reduce and restrict hydraulic fracking on the basis of supporting renewable energy as well as to save communities from the lifelong health impacts from fracking, but unfortunately these promises were not met and were sequestered by lobbyists. The political debate around economic impact and lobbying from fossil fuel organizations have emphasized necessity in allowing the continuation of fracking and unfortunately have Biden and many other officials in choke holds and bribery.
More recently, Biden has rolled back restrictions on new drilling projects, which is a testament to the fragility of necessary climate policy. In fact, drilling permits have been at an all time high since George W Bush left office. Biden’s inability to follow through on restricting fracking, despite there being ample resources and plans for a green energy transition is another example of how oil and gas lobbyist groups are jeopardizing the nation’s future for their own self preservation.
The effect fracking has on the communities it infiltrates, the environment as whole, and greenhouse gas emission proves it cannot be relied on as a source of energy going forward. But the vast amount of revenue the industry has acquired from generations of a fossil fuel reliant world, has caused politically mandated transitions toward sustainable resources nearly impossible to do within the time targets necessary. An energy transition is vital for sustainable energy security and the future of our world, therefore political action must strengthen its ability to do so.