I recently came upon this article, entitled “A Mysterious Patch of Light Shows Up In The North Dakota Dark” and decided it was time to learn a bit more about this thing called fracking.
The article describes a disturbing new smudge of light on the nighttime satellite map of the United States where once there was only darkened fields. It’s not the birth of a city we are witnessing — though the population is booming there now — but rather what’s colloquially been coined “Kuwait on the Prarie,” i.e., burning gas wells, intentionally ignited flares of excess natural gas extracted via induced hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracturing, a.k.a. fracking.
What Is Fracking?
Like many, I’d heard of it and had a vague idea about the controversy, but seeing those pictures (do check them out), it struck me there was still more to assimilate. While I knew there were concerns about the grounwater, I didn’t realize the air pollution concerns.
Here’s a quick video explaining the process from a clean, animated, industry perspective.
What’s The Hubbub?
As if the images from NASA didn’t speak volumes enough, there’s the potential for drinking water contamination, runoff of toxic waste, and even destabilizing the ground itself (think sinkholes and earthquakes).
Several documentaries have covered the first couple of these environmental issues, the shortest being this one from Earth Focus about “the risks of natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale.”
Others worth watching are…
- Oil Fracking and Its Dangers about the impact of drilling operations in Texas and the aforementioned North Dakota, and
- Unearthed: The Fracking Facade which analyzes an oft-cited PR campaign claim that there’s no documented case of groundwater contamination due to fracking in 60 years.