Infographic for Fracking Feature

What is fracking?


Hydraulic fracking is a process by which a high-pressure mixture of water and other chemicals breaks up shale rocks to release larger amounts of natural gas and oil. Wells drill around two miles down and up to two miles horizontally–in a process called horizontal drilling–to reach shale deposits and bring them to the surface. Most wells use anywhere from two to five million gallons of water and chemicals in the process.


Where is Fracking occurring?

There are currently 32 states where there are fracking wells. Of those 32 states, there are only a few where fracking has taken a prominent role in the economy. These states are: North and South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma, Nevada, Texas, California, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Montana and South Dakota have seen the largest oil booms, leading thousands of people to move to those states in search of jobs.


What is the problem with fracking?

Fracking has become increasingly popular over the last decade, with over 90 percent of wells in the United States using some amount of the process. There has been increasing amounts of research into the environmental impacts of fracking and the implications it has to potentially taint water sources through the wastewater from the process. Extracting oil and gas through fracking generally requires greater amounts of energy than more conventional methods, which ultimately releases greater amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, accelerating global climate change. Among other processes, it is generally the least environmentally sustainable and causes the most pollution.


Why isn’t anything being done to halt fracking if it is so harmful?

The oil and gas industries have some of the most well-funded lobbyists in Congress and at the state level, and have taken it upon themselves to deregulate the industry and provide as little friction for existing companies. Many state and local legislators rely on money from these companies for campaign contributions, or are held to support oil and gas because of their constituents. One example of measures like this is that hydraulic fracking is exempt from regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to a provision in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The act essentially stated that water is not contaminated by fracking wells, despite recent research to the contrary.

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