In your recent blog about the best clothes dryer options, why didn’t you talk about the environmental damage from hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to extract natural gas from shale, instead of pushing natural gas. Fracking poisons people and their water.
—Tyler, in Fayetteville, Arkansas
Thanks to you—and other smart readers—who have reprimanded me for failing to note the downside of fracking for natural gas. For those unfamiliar with the fracking process, it involves drilling way down—sometimes two miles or more—and injecting massive amounts of water along with chemicals to bust up layers of shale rock to release natural gas (methane) trapped by it. This technique has raised a number of serious concerns, because it requires massive amounts of water; may pollute groundwater with the chemicals; damages the surface environment; and leaks methane, a major global warming gas. Consequently, bans on fracking have been debated or enacted in places as disparate as New Jersey and Bulgaria, while a number of regulations have been proposed in different states to address these issues—so many, that the Sierra Club has a list of them so you can track what’s going in your own location, and get involved if you wish.
Among the common chemicals the industry admits using are hydrochloric acid, glutaraldehyde N,n-dimethyl formamide, petroleum distillates, ethylene glycol (antifreeze), and naphthalene (mothballs). They don’t tell us what else is in the fracking stew, and claim that chemicals are safely stashed way below the water table. But water still containing the chemicals after recovery from drilling sits in giant open ponds that hold millions of gallons too toxic to release.