Fracking is not a new technology, but the technological advances that have expanded its application to vast, previously unrecoverable reserves, have exposed it to significant new scrutiny. Since 2005, shale gas production has already reached 23% of United States total gas production, and that number is projected to continue to increase to 49% by 2035.
Concerns about the environmental impacts of fracking are much discussed. Consternation focuses in particular on the hydraulic fluid pumped into wells—a potential threat to drinking water supplies if it leaks or leeches. In 2012 alone 280 billion gallons of waste-water were generated.
This worry has prompted efforts to see fracking regulated or banned. At a Federal level, fracking is exempt from the requirements of the Safe Water Drinking Act, so movement against the industry have focused on state legislators. The result is a fragmented mix of approaches. Disclosure requirements (particularly relating to chemical use), restrictions on siting and access provisions all differ significantly by State (Figure 1).
Different approaches are evolving internationally too. Across the Atlantic hydraulic fracking is completely banned in France, while in China a goal has been set to meet ten percent of the country’s energy needs from shale gas by 2020.
DISCUSSION: Clearly, many continue to disagree on the best course for fracking in the United States and abroad. What are the future developments in this topic that will inform the debate one way or another? Is it conceivable that the proponents or opponents of fracking will gain a comprehensive victory, or will the development of fracking continue in its current piecemeal trajectory?
Written by : Daniel Clifton/ Edited by: Celine Rottier