Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking, is the process of injecting fluids under high pressure to crack underground rocks and release oil or gas. With the introduction of technologies such as this, oil reserves that have historically been too difficult to extract have become viable extraction sites.
Natural gas is referred to as the “bridge fuel” from gas and oil energy to renewable sources. It is responsible for nearly 40 percent of electricity generation in the country. Recent estimates from Advanced Resources International (ARI) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) show that the United States is home to some of the largest shale gas reserves in the world, with 1,161 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas.
California is home to the largest oil shale play in the nation – the Monterey Shale. The shale, which spans much of the Central Valley and the Central Coast, contains 15 billion barrels of oil. According to Clean Water Action, oil companies such as Venoco, Occidental, and PXP plan to use methods such as fracking to make California the biggest on-shore oil producing state.
“Right now there’s a bit of a Gold Rush mentality concerning shale oil,” Don Gautier, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said in a statement to KQED. “This technology has become very sophisticated… these explorationists are justifiably optimistic about the idea of being able to get out oil that couldn’t have been accessed just a few decades ago.”
However, the dangers associated with fracking have proven deeply concerning to California residents, and fracking remains highly controversial.
On April 8, 2013 a federal judge made a major ruling in a California fracking lawsuit, finding that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had failed to adequately consider the risks presented by fracking when issuing oil and gas leases on federal lands. Health and environmental impacts related to fracking, seen in communities nationwide, include: contaminated drinking water and polluted air, degradation of local waterways, and decreased property values.
The practice has also been correlated to an increase in small to moderate induced earthquakes in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio, Texas and Colorado.
The California Democratic Party has officially passed a resolution in favor of an immediate ban on fracking, stating:
“Fracking uses large amounts of water thereby reducing its availability for agriculture and other public use, uses large amounts of toxic chemicals some of which can cause cancer, creates wastewater that brings these chemicals and other deep earth contaminants (sometimes radioactive) to the surface and can pollute the water supply either directly or through leaky wells, releases methane gas into the air that exacerbates climate change, and may cause earthquakes.”
Nine bills on fracking were introduced in California’s legislative session this year; three bills attempting to impose a moratorium on the controversial oil and natural gas extraction technique were passed by the state Assembly’s Appropriations Committee. The bills would halt all fracking in California until the practice’s impacts are understood more fully and require further legislative action to lift.
At the request of Congress, the EPA is conducting a study to better understand the potential impacts of fracking on drinking water resources. The scope of the research includes the full lifespan of water in hydraulic fracturing. The progress report was released in December 2012 and a draft report is expected to be released for public comment and peer review in 2014.
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The method, chemicals and purpose of fracking are all wrong things to be using/doing. It requires no more research than does determining if the sun rises in the east. Stop it now, once and for all.
Doesn't matter my opinion. They will frack, drill, and rape this earth of all fossil fuels before they get serious about renewable energy. Bring back hemp!
Anyone who hasn't seen it should watch Gasland. Fred, we are talking about vastly different processes between now and the 60's. Your argument won't work. We need to focus on green, renewable, and preferably decentralized energy.
California has miles of coastline with can produce Tidal Energy, Vast Deserts which can produce Solar Energy and mountains and valleys perfect for Wind energy. Why take a risk on Fracking when we have so many other choices?
Yes. I have a right to clean drinking water, and fracking near groundwater infringes on my rights. End of story.
Stop all fracking - it is damaging the basic fabric of the Earth and a disaster should not be the stopping point.
Yes, absolutely. This is an issue that needs much more scrutiny and media attention. Americans need to understand the impact this process may have on our Mother Earth... thus, the future of life on Earth. Questions like will fracking increase the number of earthquakes besides contaminating our drinking water and polluting our air? Scary prospects.
I'm not at all sure which way we should head with fracking and frankly it appears the only people who are certain are those who would benefit financially from it. Given the uncertainty of its dangers, I think we need to use extreme caution.
The sole reason I moved from CA 20 years ago was the absurd commute on southern CA's vast freeway system; I can't imagine what it's like now. Perhaps conserving energy rather than finding more ways to find it would be a better choice; investing in more public transit and penalizing drivers for not using it seems to me a better alternative and doing so would improve rather than harm the environment further.
I do agree that there needs to be more conclusive research done on fracking because there is a lot of information out there and some exaggerations about the impact fracking has on the surrounding geographical region and ecosystem, but the real negative impacts need to be understood and considered when making legislative decisions about the technique. Personally, I do not know enough about the issue to make a case one way or the other.
I am intrigued to see the full report. It is so important to try to understand these things before making a value judgement. We need the energy. But we also need to make sure the right now doesn't come at the expense of things we can't fix. Oh, and if I may speak for the state, we have enough earthquakes.
I'm still not sure about fracking. Energy independence is an important priority yet the surge to frack natural gas before understanding the consequences fully seems a reason for caution
Fracking is still unproven as far as its impact on the environment, and for that reason alone I'd say wait until more research can be done. But fracking on or near QUAKE FAULTS?? Are you kidding me??
this echoes my sentiments exactly...we need the energy, but we need a widely dispersed pro/con table comparing all energy resource methods available to us, the accompanying environmental impact and the relative cost-efficiency of each method. So far on this site I've seen information on nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, and natural gas...time for another infographic? The american people need these kinds of pieces to cut through the special interest obfuscation of our environmental situation.
eh I think it's a little more complex than that. A lot of the long term environmental effects are not even confirmed, so I can see why we want to at least know what we're getting ourselves into if we use fracking in CA.
In a time when energy is more scarce, it'll be essential to tap into these resources. There are always environmental concerns, though. I'm really interested in the detailed report on fracking. I'm not sure how much the aquatic contamination can be cutrailed, but if it can be, it'll add to the breadth of energy resources. It's going to take a combination of everything to maintain energy needs at affordable rates.