Fracking: Securing Our Future Beyond Petroleum
Much has been made of the environmental impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing, or fracking, a method of extracting natural gas using millions of gallons of pressurized water and chemicals. Major concerns include methane leakage, water contamination and the dangers of continued reliance on fossil fuels. While these dangers are arguable, one indisputable aspect of fracking is that the gas it extracts will contribute to domestic security.
The main concern with the US energy supply is foreign-sourced petroleum. While petroleum products (mostly oil) are used to produce small amounts of electricity in the US, oil is the overwhelming source of energy for the transportation sector. According to the US Energy Information Administration, about forty percent of US energy comes from the use of petroleum, and less than half of that is met by domestic production. The rest is dependent upon foreign resources.
While Canada is the largest single exporter of petroleum products to the United States — accounting for about 28% of US imports — the ensuing list of exporters is more worrisome. There are widespread tensions in Middle East, and over 20% of our imports come from Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia alone. The largest African countries from whom the US imports petroleum are Nigeria, Angola, Algeria and Libya. All of these countries have had significant political unrest, if not violent revolution within the past ten years.
Closer to home, major petroleum exporters in South America include Venezuela, Colombia , Ecuador and Brazil, all of which also have their own internal and external pressures causing instability.
Many of the largest international petroleum exporters to the US suffer from political instability, have a history of bellicose or violent international relations, or both. As a matter of national security, it is at best unwise and, at worst, a veritable economic time bomb for the US to depend on these foreign countries for our energy production. Natural gas, best extracted through fracking, offers just the opposite.
Because to this point oil has been a relatively stable and cheap source of fuel, standard oil-burning engines have been employed through most of the world’s vehicles. However, natural gas-fueled vehicles (NGVs) have been in existence since the 1930s. Currently there are over 17 million NGV vehicles worldwide. In the US, cities including Los Angeles, Dallas and Salt Lake City have changed part or all of their mass transit bus systems to NGVs.
The technology to convert the fuel used in the US transportation sector from a petroleum base to a natural gas base currently exists. All that we are missing is the will and the investment. By making the switch, we will be able to sustain our own energy needs, with little to no dependence on outside energy sources.
Which brings us back to fracking. Some of the world’s largest deposits of shale gas and oil deposits exist in the United States and Canada. The Energy Information Administration estimates that the US has enough shale gas and oil resources to cover our domestic energy needs for decades. Fracking is logistically and economically the best way to access these resources.
Environmental concerns surrounding fracking are not to be dismissed. Tight controls, regulations and oversights should be in place to ensure the least risk of environmental contamination. Companies employing fracking (or any sort of resource exploration and extraction) should interact with the affected communities, and the industry should be encouraged to continuously pursue safer and more efficient methods and practices. (The United Kingdom is implementing such a comprehensive national policy).
Where there is energy production and usage, there will also be environmental concerns. Whenever possible we should demand that the concerns be immediately addressed. However, we must also confront the realities of global energy supply and security. It is irresponsible for the US to continue depending upon some of the most troubled states on the globe when we have the means for self-sufficiency inside our own borders.
Demand response programs drive down energy costs for commercial and industrial businesses. Learn how ECS can help you by clicking here.
- Demand Response
- Energy politics
- Energy Today
- Fossil Fuels
- Natural Power