The folks in the right-wing think tanks seem to be getting less and less circumspect when it comes to blatantly repackaging the propaganda and poll-tested talking points of polluters and other corporate scofflaws as “research.” Take for instance the report distributed by the Locke Foundation this morning in a press release headlined: “Fracking fluid consists almost entirely of water, sand.”  The “key facts” from the report makes the whole fracking process sound about as dangerous as a school custodian hosing down the driveway next to the cafeteria dumpster. Consider the following claims:
-Chemicals used in fracking are about 99 percent water and sand.
-The rest is a blend of chemical additives used to condition the water, prevent well casing corrosion, control the fluid pH levels, kill bacteria, etc.
-Most of the chemicals used for fracking are also found in typical household products, including soaps, makeup, and other personal care products. That means they are chemicals people already willingly encounter daily and safely.
-They are also used in consumer products for homes, pets, and yards.
In other words, “Chill out people; what’s all the hubbub about?”
Well, here are just a few things: Not to nitpick, but most of the fluid surrounding the Fukushima nuclear facility is probably water and sand too. Obviously, it doesn’t take a lot of poison to render a fluid dangerous to living things. For some poisons the measurements are made in parts per million or even parts per billion.
Moreover, even if added chemicals really do only make up 1% of fracking fluid, it’s important to understand that a typical well can take two-to-four million gallons to frack. One-percent of four million is 40,000 gallons. That could mean four to eight tanker trucks (you know, the big kind you see semi’s pulling down the highway) full of poison per well. What’s more, those chemicals aren’t in their supposedly safe and diluted state when they’re transported, stored and frequently spilled near fracking sites.
Add to this the simple fact that however diluted the fluids become, the fracking process would, in North Carolina, still be using up vast quantities of water in a place with persistent drought problems and a rapidly growing population and you’ve got to have grave doubts about plowing ahead with such a scheme, merely based on the fluid issue alone.
None of this, of course, is to denigrate the talented people who figure out how to pull off the amazing feat of squeezing oil and gas from cracks and crevices deep within the earth’s crust. Fracking involves an impressive bit of science and technology and many of the people involved no doubt mean well and have gotten better at it over the years.
Unfortunately, the same is true of lots of other human endeavors that have long since outlived their overall usefulness to society. Fracking is clearly in that category — especially in largely unsullied places with extremely modest oil and gas reserves like North Carolina.