Fracking

Why AOC says “Fracking is bad, actually.”

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responds to comments on fossil fuels during the VP debate.

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Hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — has been a hot topic of debate since it becoming commonplace in the 1990s.

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Fracking was in the spotlight during the 2020 Vice Presidential debate, when current VP Mike Pence claimed Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden would “ban fracking” if elected.

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Biden’s VP pick, Kamala Harris, categorically denied this claim.

The response from environmentalists and Democratic leaders was swift.

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Congresswoman (D-NY) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even tweeted “Fracking is bad, actually."

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Although industry officials maintain fracking is both environmentally safe and a viable alternative to oil drilling, fracking has many opponents across the political, environmental, and scientific spectrum.

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Fracking involves drilling vertically thousands of feet underground and injecting chemical-rich fluids at high pressures into the rock to open cracks and release natural gas and oil.

Here are the five biggest problems with fracking, according to science.

Fracking wells release air pollutants

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A slew of chemicals, sludge, and sand are used to produce fractures in underground rock. Pollutants from these substances can get into the air and cause damaging health effects in people living around fracking centers.

The fracking process can contaminate drinking water

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Although fracking wells are drilled far below where we access drinking water, fracturing can create conduits through which toxic or radioactive material can rise and contaminate our water sources.

Wastewater injection causes more frequent earthquakes

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A 2014 paper in Annual reviews of Environment and Resources found that, as fracking and other unconventional energy extraction processes started to increase in the central US, scientists started detecting about 100 earthquakes per year at magnitude 3 or higher.

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Before fracking, that number was more like 20 earthquakes per year.

Fracking releases greenhouse gases

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Processing natural gas releases less carbon dioxide, which is overall good in terms of climate change.

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But some scientists suggest that methane — which is another greenhouse gas — can leak from wells, basically counteracting the reduced CO2 emissions.

Fracking continues our reliance on fossil fuels

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Natural gas may be cleaner than oil, but it’s still a fossil fuel. And the world’s ability to combat climate change comes down to weaning off its reliance on fossil fuels.

Read more science and nature stories here.

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