It’s no secret that the United States currently faces a natural fuel crisis. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and the Middle East’s foreign market is becoming increasingly volatile. That’s why when I first started hearing rumblings of fracking a few years ago I was immediately on board. A way to save the country from oil dependence? Sign me up! Of course, more research and a documentary or two have quickly changed my mind. Say what you will, but fracking is not simply the artisan’s approach to natural fuel.
It was about a month ago now since Thought Catalog (actually) inspired me to do some more research on the matter. Nemo — that bitch-of-a-nor’easter — had snowed me in when I read Karen Noble’s aptly titled “17 Things To Do If You’re Snowed In.” And wouldn’t you know, Noble’s fifth order was to watch a documentary about fracking. “It’s insane. Everyone should know more about fracking.” So I, dreary and stir-crazy, heeded her words and got cozy with Gasland, the 2010 doc by Josh Fox. Netflix that ish, stat.
Gasland, nominated for Best Documentary Feature at that year’s Oscars, follows Josh Fox on his cross-country expedition to uncover the truth and hazards of fracking. Fox, a Dimock, PA native, is asked to lease his land for drilling on the Marcellus Shale, and he’s not having it — especially when his neighbors can light their water on fire thanks to fracking’s toxic effects. The film is compelling, entertaining, and best of all, informative.
No time for Netflix? Below, find some of the doc’s highlights.
First: the five steps of fracking.
- Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is a process in which a shale formation of natural gas is drilled down up to 8,000 feet. A high pressure fluid is then injected into the well, breaking the shale and releasing natural gas.
- Each drill rig, which lasts about a month per drilling, requires up to 1,150 trucks loads of equipment and materials. Rig equipment is approximately 150-200 truck loads, the hydraulic fracture water 400-600 tanker trucks, and the flowback water is 200-300 trucks. That’s anywhere from 1-8 million gallons of water per job.
- Once at the site, the water is mixed with over 40,000 gallons of approximately 600 chemicals (many of which are still unidentified) to form fracking fluid.
- There are over 500,000 wells in the United States, and each well can be drilled up to 18 times. That’s 72 trillion gallons of water and 360 billion gallons of chemicals. That pays off, however, in approximately 300,000 barrels of natural gas per day.
- During the fracturing process, groundwater is inevitably contaminated with methane gas and other chemicals. There have been thousands of documented cases of illness and more due to contamination. This is also because much of the toxic fracking fluid is left in the ground — only 30-50% is actually recovered.
Two most telling Gasland quotes:
John Fenton, Wyoming rancher:
If I had known what it was gonna be like, I don’t know that I’dve brought my family here. I hate to say that ‘cause, you know, some people might see this and wonder how I could live like this, but this is my way of life. My father and my grandfather were old time cowboys, and my grandfather on my mom’s side, they were famers in Nebraska. This is my family heritage and my wife’s — this is their family farm, you know? We’re proud of this, but, by God, if your way of life is being besieged, your health is under attack, I don’t know what else you can do, I don’t know where the hell I’d go though. Where else can I go? This is happening everywhere. That’s the biggest thing I want people to know, is you’re not alone if this is happening to you because I’m in the same boat as you are, and what we need to do is we need to get together and we need to stand up and we need to speak with a unified voice and we need to stand up to these assholes.
Weston Wilson, Environmental Protection Agency employee of 20 years:
One can characterize this entire industry of having 100 years of history of purchasing those they contaminate, so they purchase the land and often with an agreement of secrecy of somebody that’s alleging they’ve been contaminated by oil and gas production. So the industry itself has that type of practice… This is America; we shouldn’t be assuming that corporations can keep a secret, especially when they’re practicing right in our back yard.
Unexpected (or maybe expected) key player: Dick Cheney.
As CEO of Halliburton 1995-2000, Cheney formed the Energy Task Force. This “task force” met 40 times with industry leaders (big oil and the like) and only once with environmental protection groups. Cheney also oversaw the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which found a loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act. It ultimately gave oil and gas drillers exclusive authorization to inject known hazardous materials directly into or adjacent to drinking water supplies.
What YOU can do: Support the FRAC Act (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act), which calls for full disclosure of all fracking chemicals for proper regulation to be instated. It also repeals hydraulic fracturing’s exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act (thanks, Dick).
And if that’s not enough: Listen to these celebrities.
Check out “Don’t Frack My Mother” by Sean Lennon, Yoko Ono and their celebrity friends (including Liv Tyler, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Gasland’s Josh Fox).