Fracking has a huge impact on climate change. Here's how to think about the pros and cons, including how it works and its effects on communities.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
How big of a deal is fracking and its impacts? We’re just as curious as you are!
We’re joined by a fracking expert, Alexandria Shrake, who will help us break down the key components of fracking — the pros, the cons, and the solutions. Please note that our goal at Soapbox Project isn’t to be pro- or anti-fracking; it’s a complicated topic and this is our first attempt at shedding some light on it.
Alexandria is the co-founder of ENERGYminute, a movement that seeks to enable people to access complex information and depolarize challenging subjects.
Here’s what we’ll answer step-by-step:
Are you ready to rock? Frackastic – let’s drill in!
🎯 Action step 1 of 4: READ — Let's start by looking at a few articles together.
What is fracking?
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the industrial process of pumping water, sand, and additives (typically over 1 mile) into the ground. Here's a breakdown of what it looks like.
To learn more, click the image above to read a blog article Alexandria wrote for us with the full picture. No need to squint, I promise.
So…is fracking good or bad?
It’s complicated. Fracking’s not entirely the bad guy. We see that fracking does cause harm — it leads to groundwater contamination, methane leaks, and CO2 venting. However, it has the potential to reduce emissions by offsetting coal.
Should fracking be banned?
It should eventually, but maybe not now. Alexandria says the unintended consequences of banning fracking would defeat the purposes of the ban. What matters today is regulations on wastewater, flaring, and venting to protect our environment to the best of our ability while we transition away from fossil fuels — which we can’t do overnight.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 1 of 4: READ.
🎯 Action step 2 of 4: LISTEN — we'll watch a short video or listen to a podcast to further expand on our topic.
Alexandria’s interview answered a lot of our questions on if fracking itself was "good" or "bad", but as she said, it's a complex issue. Fracking is not only impacting our environment but also our surrounding communities.
Where are we now?
In 2014, the Center on Poverty, Race, and the Environment put out a video to appeal to then-governor of California, Jerry Brown, to stop fracking in the state. However, fracking is continuing to impact people the most in Kern County, California, where 75% of the state's oil is produced.
Who is impacted by fracking?
The effects of climate change and environmental destruction, like fracking, have outsized impacts on communities of color like Kern County, California. Here’s a 4-minute video that brings us the perspectives of Kern County's residents and organizers.
You'll learn that:
On the bright side, fracking has improved to some extent! Current governor Gavin Newsom supported a fracking ban and imposed regulations prohibiting oil and gas activity in close proximity to schools. However, it's unclear how committed he is to preventing destructive methods of oil extraction, but it’s not too late for us to step in.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 2 of 4: LISTEN.
🎯 Action step 3 of 4: ACT — Now it's time to do something. Let's go!
As we learned through Alexandria’s interview, fracking is partially responsible for emissions reduction and to eliminate it completely, we have to shift our economy away from fossil fuels. For instance, we can starting thinking about the impact of fracking in our local communities, and how we travel and consume our energy. Cheers to starting small right now!
1. Find a toxic site near you and leave a quick note.
If you live in the US, you can go to OurEnvironment.org and find some basic stats about your state, such as the cost of regulatory rollbacks, number of toxic sites, and number of billion-dollar weather events. Leave a short note explaining the effects of regulatory rollbacks in your area. You can write anything you want, but here's a generic statement you can modify and paste:
“Fracking in Kern County and other Central Valley communities should be banned permanently. If fracking should be permitted in California, communities affected by it should have a say in zoning laws and public safety recommendations.”
2. Reduce your travel CO2 impact by purchasing offsets.
Common modes of transportation such as airplanes and cars rely on jet fuel and natural gas for power. However, fracking extracts both sources for electricity and heat, which can make air and ground travel carbon intensive. Radicle makes it easy to calculate the CO2 impact of your travel. You can also buy carbon credits in bulk to offset your emissions.
3. Go green through your utility company!
Reduce your household emissions by transitioning into clean energy, which is less carbon intensive than natural gas. This isn't a joke; you can actually get green power from your utilities in over 600 US companies. The best way to check is on your utility's website or give them a call.
Regardless of which action works best for you, you can invest in a renewable, clean future. Fractastic news, right?!
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 3 of 4: ACT.
Before we go any further, it's time for you to pledge your commitment. It takes less than 30 seconds to pledge and we can bother you about it in a friendly way, so we can hold each other accountable. Pledge here!
🎯 Action step 4 of 4: REFLECT — what can you commit to? What fresh perspectives can we look at?
There’s more to the story than what we’ve drilled out so far. Fracking is continuing to impact our planet’s resources and impending natural disasters. Thanks to Alexandria, we can keep learning about complex subjects like these from our experts, especially on the following topics:
How does fracking impact our water supply?
The industrial practice of fracking has not been documented to impact artesian water supplies. Instead it is the lack of upholding regulations around wellbore cement jobs that cause contaminants to breach into both fresh and brackish subsurface waters. Fracking itself is performed at a depth so deep that the compaction of overlying rock is a far greater force per a unit area then the pressure of hydraulic fracturing.
How concerned should we be about the relationship between fracking and seismic impacts like earthquakes?
Fracking does cause small seismic events which can be classified as small earthquakes. The definition of small is of course in the eye of the beholder. When people feel deeply afraid, there is extraordinarily little anyone can do to convince them that something is safe.
What is the best way to educate people on the pros & cons of fracking, and push for more quality regulation in the industry?
As emphasized by Alexandria, relationships are paramount in dialog. We have the opportunity to share our perspective and influence others. However, quality regulation comes down to practical collaboration and stakeholder engagement. For example, listening to the scientists that monitor earthquake seismology and ecologists that use the scientific method to establish baselines then monitor irregularities are what can inform good regulation.
Did deeper into our Q&A with Alexandria to learn more! TL;DR: It’s more pressing than ever to build towards a renewable future to sustain our lives and our planet.
🏁 Checkpoint: This is the end of action step 4 of 4: REFLECT.
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Get our free bite-sized climate action plans before you go!