lunes, 21 de abril de 2014

Fracking: what is more important jobs or the environment?

Fracking is innately a strong hazard for human beings, the environment and for the flora and fauna in adjacent areas, yet it has become a “gold mine” for bolstering up the U.S. economy, still staggering from the effects of the financial crisis set into motion due to speculation by corporate players.

The demand for petroleum products in the United States is an unending upward spiral due to the prevailing life style and consumerism. This is where fracking appeared as a quick medicine to increase gas and oil supply and provide jobs to thousands of workers seeking employment.

Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing. It is a process that is water-intensive involving millions of gallons of liquid—a mix of water, sand and chemicals, including some suspected of provoking cancer. The mix is injected underground at high pressure to fracture the rock surrounding an area known to have great shale deposits. This action releases extra oil and gas from the rock, so that it can flow into a well.

However, previously the land in the area to be exploited must be cleared to build new access roads, new well sites, drilling and encasing the wells, fracking and generating waste, trucking in heavy equipment and materials and dealing with vast amounts of toxic waste. This contributes to air and water pollution, the devaluation of land, implies the use of and contamination of enormous quantities of local water supplies.

Not surprisingly, many communities in the country have rebelled against fracking. Many communities have even passed resolutions to outlaw it. Yet those businesses which develop fracking continue to advance and argue that their activities provide jobs for workers at a time of persisting high unemployment.

Pennsylvania is a case in point. The Marcellus shale gas site, the second largest in the world, stretches across Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland and is estimated  to contain more than 410 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

There has been strong opposition in the state to the burgeoning fracking activities among environmentalists and important voices within the Democratic Party. But the head of the Laborers’ International Union (LIUNA) sees jobs in fracking. “The shale became a life-saver and a lifeline for a lot of working families,” he said in an article April 21 in the Intelligencer Journal of Lancaster. He claimed the huge quantities of natural gas extracted from vast shale reserves over the past five years has led to an important increase in employment: In 2008 union members worked about 400,000 hours; by 2012 the number of hours worked at fracking sites rose to 5.7 million.

What is more important: the economic benefits of fracking or its devastating ecological consequences for people in all walks of life? 

In Lancaster, where plans are being developed for laying a 35 mile natural gas pipeline that would raze beautiful forest areas, there is active opposition to fracking from environmentalists, preservationists, landowners and even ordinary citizens.  The proposal is part of a $2 billion, 177 mile pipeline that would carry Marcellus Shale natural gas to markets other than Lancaster County and would forever alter the hills and forests and two natural preserves along the Susquehanna River. At least two citizen groups are chiming against the pipeline: SOUL (Save Our Unspoiled Land) and Lancaster Against Pipeline. Those who want to vent their spleen may visit the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s website at .

An additional argument against the pipeline is that a good part of the fuel would be marked for export—something that contradicts the argument that fracking helps the county in its struggle for energy independence.

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