via Environmental Health News

Opinion: How Fracking Changes Everything

Peter Dykstra, EHN
2/6/15

Reprinted with permission from Environmental Health News.

Forget, for the moment, whether you think fracking is an energy godsend or an endtimes disaster. Just consider how it’s everywhere.

In the long run, fracking will impact our lives far more than four of its fellow inductees into the Merriam-Webster dictionary this past year: Hashtags, selfies, tweeps, and turduckens all have their place in society. But none touch everyone’s lives like fracking will, and already has.

The coal industry readily admits that it’s being undercut by low natural gas prices. A growing boneyard of shuttered coal-fired power plants, and rushed plans to salvage the U.S. coal industry by creating export markets to Asia are a direct impact of the fracking boom, and a domestic oversupply of oil and natural gas.

Vermont Yankee nuke plant closed in December. (Photo: NRC)

Nuclear power is on the ropes as well. The December shutdown of the Vermont Yankee nuke plant followed other closures in Wisconsin, California and Florida. Judgment day is nearing for nukes in Ohio, Illinois, and New York where cheap natural gas has made nuclear power too costly.

And the oil and gas industry’s fracking windfall is even claiming victims in the oil and gas industry. Citing the collapse in oil prices, energy giants Royal Dutch Shell and Suncor both announced layoffs and cutbacks in tarsands production this week.

The huge increase in supply of fracked petroleum leaves U.S. consumers with few complaints about gasoline prices, plummeting to near $2 a gallon. Automakers, whose sales surged in December, are pleased, too. Thanks largely to the low pump prices, SUV’s, trucks, and low-mileage luxury vehicle buys led the way in the sales boom—all a little bit of buzzkill for climate action.

Has there been another energy boom that’s literally caused the Earth to move? Unprecedented numbers of small earthquakes in Ohio and Oklahoma - places with little seismic history—have been directly linked to the fracking process.

Fracking also has left a couple of craters in world politics. After his annexation of the Crimea, Vladimir Putin was said to be “living in another world” by his German counterpart, Angela Merkel. Western sanctions had an impact on Putin’s Russia, but falling world prices have put Russia’s natural gas-reliant economy in peril, and possibly returned Putin to Earth.

Vladimir Putin

And OPEC, once thought to be well-insulated from world political pressure, broke with tradition in the face of falling oil prices. Led by the Saudis, OPEC in its heyday would routinely cut production to drive prices back up. This time, in an uncharacteristically Zen-like response, they didn’t bother. In a recent interview, Saudi oil billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal said we’d never see $100-a-barrel oil prices again (they’re currently less than half that).

Fracking also has drilled its way into more frivolous pop-culture pursuits.

Pages

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page