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Jonathan Schaffner
Prof. Mikos
ENV 151
June 4, 2013
Hydraulic Fracturing: The Wicked Web
The abuse of fossil fuels has dangerously sped climate change and as a result, the sixth
mass extinction is on its way. Humans, too, are living organisms on this earth and soon will be
the next species to be endangered. In response, governments are searching for alternative energy.
President Obama, in an executive order, backed natural gas as an alternative source: The
development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and
cheaper, proving that we dont have to choose between our environment and our economy
(Energy In Tonights State Of The Union). However, this issue is not black and white. There is a
great debate on whether the United States should permit hydraulic fracturing with regulation or
enact a complete ban. It is a wicked web ensnaring various groups of society, each with their
own reasons to accept or reject the method of hydraulic fracturing. Wherever one stands, the fact
of hydraulic fracturing is that this method has a false identity of a green and economic answer, as
it is the impetus of human and environmental degradation. The demand for this energy source
can be curbed investigating the drivers for this source and offering transition strategies that have
been successful models throughout society.
Currently, hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is used in nine out of 10 wells in
the United States. It is the practice of injecting millions of gallons of water, chemicals, and sand
down into a well that turns horizontally to tackle more surface area for natural gas. The high
pressure induced creates fractures in the rock layer such as shale that can reach as far as 6,000
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feet under the surface of the earth (What Is Hydraulic Fracturing?). As a result of new hydraulic
fracturing, U.S natural gas production rose 30 percent from 2007 to 2010. The effects of
Obamas pledge to natural gas are already taking place. Despite this new trend, gas productivity
per well has declined by 36 percent from 1990 to 2009 (McElroy). Natural gas has now become
the green propaganda of the government in a weak attempt to show their concern for the earth.
The interpretation of green energy suddenly became another fossil fuel called natural gas, which
is another short-term solution.
Before offering any transition models, a deconstruction of this wicked web is necessary
by observing the various stakeholders of hydraulic fracturing and understanding the reasoning
behind them. Thus, the first stakeholder is the Federal Government, under the Obama
Administration, which mentioned above, has strongly supported the production of natural gas as
energy of the future, making it a primary and key stakeholder. The main incentives for this
support of natural gas are to change the course of the economy into an economic boom and to
lessen energy dependency on foreign countries. In order to achieve these goals at a faster rate,
the Obama Administration supports hydraulic fracturing as a method, which has increased
extraction from reserves that once seemed depleted (Broder). This boom in domestic oil could
make the United States a key role in world energy uplifting the economy. Hydraulic fracturing
serves as a chance to strengthen the power of the country and corral the support of its people.
Another benefit for the federal government would be the taxes placed on hydraulic fracturing,
allowing these funds to fill state and federal budgets (Natural Gas). The Federal Government has
the political ability to influence the success or downfall of this particular industry.
Another stakeholder involved is dependent on the Federal Governments lack of
regulation, which is the oil and gas companies. Oil companies, as primary stakeholders, are
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invested in continuing the use of fossil fuels and now natural gas has become their main interest.
There have been amendments to federal laws that restrict the governments involvement in
hydraulic fracturing. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency enacted the Clean
Water Act in 1972, which established standards for pollution in water. Construction companies
were required to obtain storm water permits for sediment runoff yet hydraulic fracturing, which
puts chemicals in the ground and stores wastewater in pits, is not regulated (Tiemann 29). The
lack of regulation encourages oil and gas companies to integrate any extraction processes no
matter the cost. There is a sense of freedom that enables these companies to expand without the
risk of penalty.
Over the past several years hydraulic fracturing has unlocked a vast new source of energy
supply in the United States. Advanced forms of the process that Tillerson (Chairman, President,
and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation) used in the 1970s, combined with innovative methods of
drilling, have enabled energy companies to extract huge quantities of natural gas and oil trapped
in shale rock--assets that were previously thought to be either impossible or uneconomic to
produce. It is widely thought that the U.S. now has 100 years or more of domestic gas supply at
current consumption rates (O'Keefe). Already there has been a frenzy of exploration. A shale gas
boom has turned assumptions about the future of the U.S. and global energy picture upside
down. Less than a decade ago the consensus was that America was beginning to run out of
economically recoverable natural gas and that the country would need to import vast quantities
of it from overseas. U.S. production has increased 28 percent since 2005 as technology has
enabled a shale gas revolution (O'Keefe). In fact, Tillerson is betting much of his company's
future growth, and a good portion of his legacy, on the promise of hydraulic fracturing.
The new discoveries of natural gas, due to hungry companies, have lead to the growth of
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energy-intensive industries, such as the petro-chemical industry, which is a secondary
stakeholder. (Loris). The advancement in hydraulic fracturing has created new market supplies in
natural gas and liquefied natural gas such as ethane, an integral petrochemical feedstock. This
new wave of domestic natural gas with the speedy form of hydraulic fracturing has decreased the
cost of natural gas leading to a decrease cost in liquefied natural gas, which U.S petrochemical
firms regularly use. Thus, these companies have an advantage on companies outside the United
States that use an oil-based chemical called naptha, for their chemical industry (Thompson). For
this reason, Royal Dutch Shell plans to invest a large sum of money in this petrochemical
industry. They have planned to construct a 2 billion dollar petrochemical plant in western
Pennsylvania since it is close to another natural gas site (Loris). This investment illustrates the
positive impact that natural gas has on the petro-chemical industry. The sum of money dedicated
to this plant is evidence that the petro-chemical industry will continue to support hydraulic
fracturing.
According to a analysis of the U.S chemical industry, the U.S market of chemical
production has become one of the most advantageous markets in the world since the copious
and low cost amount of natural gas (Loris). This can be exhibited in the petrochemical industry
of Texas. It as has transformed into the forefront exporter in the United State being credited for
17 percent of all U.S exports in 2011, 24 percent which comes from chemicals (Thompson). The
success of the petrochemical industry relies on the continued success of natural gas extraction
through hydraulic fracturing since they depend on cheap ethane. If this process were to slow or if
there was an unexpected decrease in reserves, prices in natural gas would significantly increase
and the chemical industry would take a hit. The petro-chemical industry is secondary stakeholder
since they are dependent on an entirely different industry.
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While industry represents multiple stakeholders in hydraulic fracturing, the power of
industry has a direct effect on the cities and towns in the United States. There are many
beneficial outcomes that fracking can do for small towns. Citizens within these small towns have
the opportunity to benefit from the fracking industry by owning land or mineral rights. When a
person of a community owns land, it can be leased to fracking companies for either store
equipment or used for any part of the fracking process. Most of the time, the citizens that lease
land do not earn a significant amount of money since the payment is recompense for being an
eye sore or for any disturbances caused by fracking. However, citizens have the potential to
make millions of dollars if they own the mineral rights to a piece of property. A mineral right
according to the state of Michigan is the right to extract a mineral of the Earth to receive
payment, which can be in the form of a royalty (Mineral Rights). In small town America, regular
folk are suddenly enticed with the opportunity to strike gold through this industry. Selling land
and watching the company do the all of the work substitute hard labor and failure in other job
opportunities.
The money that is earned by the residence helps boost the local economy. In Carroll
County, Ohio, town officials have reported a 25 percent jump in tax revenue, which people say is
directly correlated with the fracking boom. The town then used this new source of revenue to
expand infrastructure by building new roads, schools, public work buildings and new parks for
the community. Tax dollars are not the only positive effects as larger fracking companies
sometimes provide assistance to these small towns. Chesapeake Energy, which is one of the
larger fracking corporations, has given more than 40 million dollars on just road improvements
(Hall). Another upside to the expanding fracking industry in these smalls towns is that it brings
in new businesses. Places like North Dakota have experienced this, as new businesses were
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developed to accommodate the new workers and expanding population (Hall). More than
benefiting the individual, the hydraulic fracturing industry has revitalized towns making these
areas a point of interest. The town suddenly becomes more well-known and draws in people
form outside of town.
On the other hand, towns and cities have faced economic and environmental issues with
the implementation of hydraulic fracturing within their community. Mentioned in the above
paragraph, Chesapeake Energy, which can provide funding and assistance to these small towns,
is one of the only examples of a company that actually gives back to the town and its people.
Thus, one of the largest problems small towns face is rapid expansion. Not all cities receive
funding to help with the expansion and this causes stress on old infrastructure, which is often not
repaired or replaced by the energy companies. Schools and businesses also have a difficult time
coping with raid expansion. In Williston, North Dakota, the school system is holding over 3,800
students, which is 57 percent over capacity while daycare centers are so full that they have to
turn away children. (Oldham). Companies come in and use towns at their disposal not providing
enough resources, which in turn degrades the once stable community. Furthermore, a lack of
resources in schools can damage the school system, as they are not providing enough for the
children.
With the expansion boom also comes elevated air pollution that is directly correlated with
fracking. In 2011 the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found that the gas and oil
operations emitted more Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, than all the trucks, cars, buses
and other types of transportation combined in Fort Worth, Texas. This type of pollution is known
to cause an increase in asthma around fracking sites and towns (Gallay). While some citizens
believe their quality of life is improving through the economy, their true quality of life, which is
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their health, is being put to risk. This then defeats the purpose obtaining a better life when these
townspeople are faced with dense air pollution. Some do not have a choice as their neighbors
may have permitted fracking, which challenges environmental justice with their right to life.
The most horrific issue a small town may face with fracking is water contamination,
which comes from fracking fluid that can leach into the drinking water. According to National
Public Radio (NPR), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has conducted a study that ties
contaminated drinking water to the fracking industry. The test was conducted in the town of
Pavillion, Wyoming where EPA officials found high levels of benzene (a known carcinogen),
synthetic glycol and alcohol all of which are used in fracking fluid. The fracking company
Encana now provides drinking water to the residence of Pavillion at a cost of $1,500 per month
(Shogren). Furthermore, there are many reports of methane seeping into drinking water from
states like Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Ohio. These high levels of methane can cause the
water to catch on fire. In 2004 in Pennsylvania this type of methane seepage killed three people
when a house exploded (Lustgarten). The physical damage done by hydraulic fracturing out
weighs the short-term monetary benefits. While the dynamic of an economy can always be
altered for better or for worse, the effects of hydraulic fracturing cannot be reversed. Once
contamination seeps into the fresh water source, there is no way to contain it.
A stakeholder that is directly correlated with the towns and cities is the worker, which is
a primary stakeholder. With the unemployment rate sitting at 7.5 percent, some residents of the
United States are looking to this progressing industry, hydraulic fracturing, for a source of
income. Furthermore, according to the IMPLAN model, which predicts job effects in each state,
hydraulic fracturing creates direct jobs that include construction, metal fabrication, truck
transportation, and oil and gas extraction. Hydraulic fracturing creates indirect job opportunities
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in states that do not extract natural gas, that include the production of equipment, chemicals, and
electronics for the hydraulic fracturing industry (Lydersen). The opportunity for work intersects
different states. Residents of Illinois are currently considering this employment since the Illinois
unemployment stands at 9.3 percent (Unemployment Rates Drop in Most States, Illinois
Climbs). With natural gas reserves in southern Illinois, higher unemployment could lead
residents into being independent on this jobs source especially since their unemployment rate is
over the national average. These workers rely on hydraulic fracturing industry to pay for any
living expenses whether it is household bills, school tuition, groceries, or a car payment. Workers
are primary stakeholders. The opening of jobs is dependent on banning or regulating hydraulic
fracturing. Furthermore, if hydraulic fracturing takes place, the health of the worker is put on the
line.
While workers debate whether employment in hydraulic fracturing is worth the time,
consumers are dependent upon natural gas and this demand is continuing to rise. Consumers, a
secondary stakeholder, have used more than 25.46 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Furthermore,
50 percent of all households in the United States use natural gas. Electric power generation uses
36 percent of natural gas, 28 percent to industrial uses, 16 percent to residential homes and the
remainder is utilized in plant consumption, pipeline construction, distribution, and for vehicles.
The reason why Americans use natural gas over other nonrenewable fossil fuels is the price. A
report by the Energy Information Administration states that in 2011 the average heating bill for
natural gas in America was 732 dollars from October 1st to March 31
st
compared to heating form
oil, which was 2,535 dollars (What Percentage of Homes in the U.S. Use Natural Gas?). In total,
the consumers saved 1803 dollars. Since natural gas is produced domestically the prices will
remain cheap for years to come.
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Although there is certain ignorance with consumer consumption of natural gas, there are
numerous groups of green advocates that oppose hydraulic fracturing. The environmental groups
recognize the environmental injustice involved. Environmental groups are primary stakeholders
who have been fighting hard and going toe-to-toe with industry lobbyists in favor of strong
regulations and compliance. There are environmental groups that pushed for a two-year
moratorium or delay of any legislation in order to observe the environmental effects hydraulic
fracturing has. However, the Senate recently passed legislation 52-3 in the Senate, which
requires drillers to release the chemicals they use to the public and test the water before and after
fracking. Companies would also be held accountable for any water pollution committed and sued
by the individual citizen (Wallace). Yet, advocates such as is Annette McMichael, a property
owner in Johnson County who belongs to an environmental coalition, does not think this is
sufficient because of the evidence of hydraulic fracturing around the country. Many rural
residents near fracking operations complain of contaminated groundwater, fouled air, clogged
roads with truck traffic, and round-the-clock noise during the fracking process (Drajem).
Environmental groups are informed about the current issues with hydraulic fracturing and will
try to make the government and companies aware of the potential catastrophes. These groups are
active by going to their state capitol to inform representatives of their environmental mission and
concern.
While all these stakeholders are arguing for their position, there is one that is the center
of it all but has no voice. The environment is key to this argument as every single stakeholder
depends on it. Energy companies, especially, depend on the environment because it provides
businesses and organizations with the materials needed to make profits. Nature is unable to
defend itself against these corporations, therefore nature is being impacted in negative manner
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and turning into a chaotic state (Laine). This is why nature should be considered the ultimate
stakeholder since it is fundamentally different from other stakeholders. Seeing that all other
stakeholders depend on nature, its only defense is the defense by others through stakeholders like
environmental groups.
With all these stakeholders having some sort of link to hydraulic fracturing, a deeper
investigation must consider what drives these groups to support or reject this method of
extraction. Thus, the first driver to be considered is the economy. The economy plays a large
role in promoting technology of hydraulic fracturing, as it has become the definer of well-being
in the United States. The increased extraction of natural gas reduces the imports in the United
States, which could slowly stabilize the imbalanced structure of imports versus exports.
According to the organization, Energy Tomorrow, the United States is predicted to be a net
exporter of natural gas by 2020, resulting in cheap energy that reduces electricity cost and land
price, which leads to growth in U.S consumption for the economy (Hydraulic Fracturing Could
Jumpstart Economy). There is this idea that prosperity in the United States derives from
economic consumption. The more one consumes, the greater the circulation in money, which
leads to economic expansion and power.
Increased oil and gas production also lowers the trade imbalance by reducing imports.
Natural gas through hydraulic fracturing has already caused more than $76 billion in U.S Gross
Domestic Product, which has the potential to triple to $231 billion by 2035. Meanwhile, federal,
state, and the local government are reaping in tax revenue to a total of $18.6 billion across all
levels in 2010 (Hydraulic Fracturing Could Jumpstart Economy).
The previous year, companies drilling the Marcellus Shale contributed $400 million in taxes
(Where Is Hydraulic Fracturing Occurring and How Has That Impacted Local Communities?).
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Hydraulic fracturing becomes a key source in income as it can influence the deficits all around
the United States.
The Obama Administration views hydraulic fracturing to obtain this domestic resource as
a solution to the effects from the economic downturn in 2008. Yet, the United States is choosing
the wrong economic model to follow as they are depending on a finite resource that will
ultimately ruin the economy with its detrimental environmental effects. A successful economic
model the United States should follow is Germany, which transformed its model into a low
carbon economy. One of the pivotal polices involved, which the United States should concede to,
is the energy tax reform implemented between 1999 and 2003. According to How Germany
Became Europes Green Leader, the revenues of the energy tax reform have been almost fully
returned to taxpayers, with the largest share used for a gradual reduction of social security
contributions. For example, 16.6 billion euro was collected in revenue from this tax reducing
labor costs and pension contributions. (Michael Mehling, et al 57). Furthermore, the incentive to
reduce energy consumption through this reform has inspired the German industry to create
energy-efficient technologies that is one of the fastest growing exports in the country. According
to Michael Mehling, et al, this reform has strengthened the German economy through
efficiency whether from the decrease of utility bills to avoiding economic fluctuations as a result
of dependency on oil and gas (57). Germany is the process of transforming the energy crisis into
in energy surge with their reform that sparked sustainable actions. It illustrates a closed loop
system as German energy taxpayers eventually benefit through revenue in different realms of the
economic sector.
To promote renewables in order to do well in the energy tax reform, the German
government enacted the feed-in tariff policy, which is a renewable energy policy. These policies
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ensure grid access for renewable technologies and offer at least a 20 year contract to show
commitment in developing these technologies (Michael Mehling, et al 58). In the long run,
investment in these technologies coincides with the energy tax as new industries are formed that
the spur the economy. Considering that the United States has more land than Germany, the
country has more access to natural and renewable resources. However, Mehling, et al cites that
Germany was able to pass this policy because all major German parties support a low-carbon
economy while the United States is divided over climate change policies (Michael Mehling, et al
59). Thus, the United States is not entirely invested in this idea and as a result, there needs to be
a culture change in order for the economy to go in this direction.
A byproduct in investing in a renewable economy would be reducing the environmental
costs of industry. An example of the environmental effects of an unsustainable industry can be
witnessed in China. Although the United States is not at the level of pollution China is currently
at, China is good indicator for the potential environmental effects based on the economic model.
According to the Review Of Environmental Economics & Policy, the total environmental damage
caused in China in 2002 was valued at 213 billion yuan, otherwise known as 27 billion U.S
dollars. Within that percentage, 49 billion yaun is contributed to mortality from environmental
health effects (Jing, Cao, Mun S. Ho, and Dale W. Jorgenson 200). To put this in a global
perspective, environmental damaged caused by humans was 11 percent of the worlds GDP at
6.6 trillion dollars (Pricing Environmental Damage: US$ 28 Trillion by 2050).
This shows the propensity of industry when not properly regulated or in sync with environmental
concerns, which has direct effect on the economy. However, by implementing green policies in
the United States as demonstrated in Germany, the once unaccountable costs can be accounted
for through taxation and restrictions.
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The opportunity for thousands of open job positions lead to encouragement of hydraulic
fracturing. The effect of hydraulic fracturing can be seen in different states. Direct jobs were
created as a result of hydraulic fracturing in Wisconsin Minnesota, and Ohio. As a result of this,
it was considered that Illinois was the receiver of 1,393 metal production jobs and 353 jobs in
real estate (Lydersen). The development of this industry decreases the unemployment rate and
without this, some people might not have any opportunity to make money. When people are
desperately searching for jobs to make a living, any opportunity for job is a triumph no matter
the job description
On the other hand, some citizens are concerned that hydraulic fracturing does not actually
benefit job creation in the local atmosphere. While some local citizens would like to apply for
these jobs in their hometowns, they are outcompeted by people from out of town. Resident of
Carroll County in Ohio, Paul Feezel, says that most of the license plates he sees when looking at
the rigs and welders are from out of state (Lydersen). Thus, this industry has a heavy dependency
on people out of that state who have select skill sets. Aside from job opportunity, workers in
hydraulic fracturing face serious health issues as they drill for natural gas from shale. The
hydraulic fracturing industry has a death rate more than seven times than any other job in the
United States. Their wellbeing and future is at risk as studies have shown that exposure to
crystalline silica in hydraulic fracturing can result in silicosis, lung cancer and additional other
diseases (Obama's Record on Chemical Safety Criticized After Blast). The workers life is
dependent upon the safety of this industry. With these health issues, it seems as though they have
little power changing their social conditions against the industry.
Job opportunity is correlated with the economy and its solutions are intertwined with the
previous driver of uplifting the economy from the United States economic downfall. However,
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there is a new industry emerging that is the renewable energy industry. According to the
International Renewable Energy Agency, there was a growth of 3.5 million jobs in 2010 as a
result of this industry. From this statistic, 1.5 million jobs derived from biofuels 630,000 came
from the wind industry, and 350,000 in the solar PV industry. While some areas have diverse
sources of renewables, others concentrate on one particular energy source such as wind power in
Denmark (Renewable Energy Jobs 16). In Europe alone, renewable contributed to 300,000 jobs
at the end of 2009, which was twice the amount than in 2007 (Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes).
Initiating the mass development of renewables has the potential to be successful considering the
various environments and conditions are in the Untied States. For example, the Midwest has
implemented wind farms while coastal areas like Massachusetts have the potential for wave
energy. Renewables are flexible and relative to the location and since the United States isolated,
the opportunities are plentiful since they do not have to concern themselves with infringing on
other borders as they implement these renewables.
There was a case study in Aragon, Spain that demonstrated the positive impact that
renewables had on employment rates. The Centre of Research for Energy Resources and
Consumption fnoticed that his pilot case study had great potential for wind power. As a result,
1713 MW were implemented by the end of 2007 in Aragon, which comprised 11.4 percent of
wind power in all of Spain. Meanwhile, the project also installed hydropower usage comprising
of 254 MW. An assortment of other sources was installed from thermal power to photovoltaic
power in this region. The project also created a biofuel plant that produced 25,000 tons of
biodiesel a year. Since the Energy Plan of Aragon that has been in place for15 years, there has
been a growth in employment in the renewable sector while the conventional energy sector has
witnessed a decrease. The success of this industry and employment derives from the promotion
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of small companies in the energy industry, which provides diversity and the willingness to adapt
to new renewable technologies. With data tracked over the last 15 years in Aragon, renewable
energy has produced between 4 and 1.8 times more jobs per MW than the conventional finite
resource industry (Eva Llera Sastresa, et al). The important takeaway from this case study is that
the diversification of renewables depending on the conditions in certain areas of Aragon has lead
to successful job creation. The implementation of different sources promotes growth in industry
as well as a distribution of jobs.
Although important transition steps can make a difference in transitioning to a new job
creation system, another driver must be looked at to weaken dependence on hydraulic fracturing
which is the demand for fossil fuels. Humans play a significant role in the demands for fossil
fuels. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), fossil fuels meet around
82 percent of U.S. energy demand (Fossil Fuels). These huge sources of energy work to generate
steam, electricity, and power transportation systems. They make the manufacturing of tens of
thousands of residential and commercial goods possible. However, fossil fuels are not renewable
and are being extracted at rates the earth cannot sustain ruining the complex cycles of the earth.
Fossil fuels cause pollution to the environment as greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere
that trap in UV radiation causing Global Climate Change. Use of crude oil causes pollution and
poses environmental hazards such as oil spills when oil tankers, for instance, experience leaks or
drown deep under the sea. Crude oil contains toxic chemicals which cause air pollutants when
combusted (Uses Of Natural Gas, Fossil Fuels: Their Advantages and Disadvantages). Humans
are dependent on fossil fuels through all facets of life and it has become a life source. However,
the abuse of fossils fuels has attacked various segments of the environment posing long-term
issues.
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Natural gas as a fossil fuel has long been considered an alternative fuel for the
transportation sector. One of the primary reasons for pursuing alternative fueled vehicle
technology is to decrease environmentally harmful emissions. Natural gas vehicles are much
cleaner burning than traditionally fueled vehicles due to the chemical composition of natural gas.
However, natural gas is primarily methane, which is being released into the environment through
vehicle exhaust. Methane is an asphyxiant that can take away your supply of oxygen. When
inhaled natural gas can lead to severe health complications or even death. Natural gas still emits
amounts of ethane, propane, and butane when used as a vehicle fuel (Residential Uses). Finally,
it should be noted that natural gas, like gasoline, is a fossil fuel and cannot be considered a
renewable resource. While natural gas reserves in the United States are still considerable, they
are not inexhaustible.
Natural gas is one of the most affordable forms of energy available to the residential
consumer. In fact, natural gas has historically been a better value than electricity as a source of
energy in the home. The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that in 2011, natural gas is the
lowest cost conventional energy source available for residential use. According to the DOE,
natural gas costs approximately 68 percent less than the cost of electricity, per Btu (British
thermal unit). Not only is natural gas a good value for the residential consumer, it also has a
number of varied uses. The best-known uses for natural gas around the home are natural gas
heating and cooking. Cooking with a natural gas range or oven can provide many benefits,
including easy temperature control, self ignition and self cleaning, as well as being
approximately one-half the cost of cooking with an electric range. In addition to heating homes,
natural gas can also be used to help cool houses through natural gas powered air conditioning
(Residential Uses). Although natural gas has many uses and can supply energy to a vast number
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of residential appliances, there are some energy requirements around the house, which cannot be
satisfied by natural gas. A television, blender or microwave, for instance, will likely never be
powered directly by natural gas, but will instead require electricity.
Commercial uses of natural gas are very similar to residential uses. The commercial
sector includes public and private enterprises, like office buildings, schools, churches, hotels,
restaurants, and government buildings. The main uses of natural gas in this sector include space
heating, water heating, and cooling. For restaurants and other establishments that require cooking
facilities, natural gas is a popular choice to fulfill these needs. Natural gas is an extremely
efficient, economical fuel for heating in all types of commercial buildings. Although space and
water heating account for a great deal of natural gas use in commercial settings, non-space
heating applications are expected to account for the majority of growth in natural gas use in those
settings. Although natural gas seems like the perfect way to operate large buildings, it is creating
a huge environmental impact. Its use and availability is finite and many critics also say that
natural gas extraction is leaving large craters within the earth. The pressure exerted by the gas
helps support the layers of soil above. When the gas is removed the soil pressure increases and
this can cause the ground to sink or collapse. Natural gas is also combustible and while many
people prefer gas for this very reason, gas is explosive and can be extremely dangerous if
handled improperly (Commercial Uses).
One aspect to minimize the dependency on fossil fuels is addressing the transportation
sector. While the transportation does hold all the guilt in demanding fossil fuels, it plays a
significant role. Therefore, one transition strategy would be to develop urban areas that
encourage the use of bicycles for transportation. For example, the City of Chicago has bike plan
for 2015. The plan recommends projects, programs and policies for the next ten years to
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encourage use of this practical, non-polluting and affordable mode of transportation. The Bike
2015 Plan has two overall goals: to increase bicycle use, so that 5 percent of all trips less than
five miles are by bicycle, and to reduce the number of bicycle injuries by 50 percent from current
levels. The plan proposes a 500-mile bikeway network, establishing a bikeway within a half-mile
of every Chicago resident. Bikeways to priority destinations, including schools, universities and
transit stations, are proposed (Executive Summary). This bicycle plan is making this
transportation method more accessible and encouraging people to use these routes instead of
relying on the automobile. Furthermore, it is creating an idea that automobiles are no longer the
most important mode of transportation, which demands fossil fuels.
The Chicago Bicycle Plan of 2015 also pays attention to zoning and infrastructure needs
of bicyclists. Bicyclists needs are to be considered in the planning, design, construction, and
maintenance of all streets. Special attention is to be given to bicycling whenever bridges,
underpasses and expressways are constructed or improved so these facilities do not become
significant barriers to bicycling (Executive Summary). Road hazards such as potholes, broken
glass, and sewer grates that trap bicycle wheels are to be identified on a regular basis and
repaired quickly. Key strategies to emphasizing free, convenient parking advantages include
installing an additional 5,000 bike racks and 1,000 long-term bike parking spaces, encouraging
bike parking inside commercial and office buildings, and ensuring that the bike parking
requirements of Chicagos new zoning ordinance are met. Strategies to improve bike-transit
connections include considering bicyclists needs in the planning, design and operation of trains
and stations; establishing bikeways to popular train stations; and providing bike parking inside
and outside stations. The goal is to increase the number of bike-transit trips by 10 percent per
year (Executive Summary). This biking system creates a new culture that illustrates the
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practicality in depending on ones self for transportation. It is a method that does not demand
fossil fuels or support of life that continues extraction of fossil fuels, which slowly weans people
off relying solely on these resources.
Part of the reason that companies and the Federal Government have looked to hydraulic
fracturing is because the advance of science and technology in hydraulic fracturing has become
one of the main drivers. According to Michael Doucette in Business in Calgary journal,
companies have developed and are continuing to develop innovative horizontal drilling
fracturing techniques to efficiently tap into once unobtainable reserves. For example, a 3-D
seismic monitoring system is used that maps out seismic activity during fracking, which is then
used to increase the efficiency in the well (Doucette). The advancement in technology is also
leading to the development of Super-Fracking. This is an integration of using specialized pipes
that provide accuracy for explosives; greater explosions are included to penetrate the bedrock
deeper; and where a mix of fibers hold open the fractures more efficiently (Westenhaus). The
improvements in hydraulic fracturing have attracted companies to invest in hydraulic fracturing
as natural gas is the new wave of energy. Oil has peaked and these new reserves are potential
profits for companies. These technologies are making it easier to locate the reserves saving time
and money by making fewer misses in the bedrock while extracting greater volumes.
Instead of governments permitting the investment in newer hydraulic fracturing ideas,
they should invest in efficient technologies that will be integral in the long run of society. Hence,
green building technologies such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
(LEED), a certification bestowed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBG). The USGBG, a
nonprofit organization founded in 1993, devised LEED to encourage commercial builders to
incorporate more green practices and to get more people talking about energy efficiency,
20
recycled components, and healthy buildings that feature natural lighting and materials low in
toxins. LEED is one of the most recognized organizations in the Go Green movement and its
rating system is the primary driving force of the green building movement. LEED points for
conducting APPAs custodial effectiveness audit, which for the first time will reward buildings
that have superior cleaning programs (Johansson).
Automatic lighting controls can cut energy bills when sunlight is providing adequate
illumination. The best way to save energy dollars and get LEED points for ventilation is through
proper maintenance of ventilation air systems, sensors measure the gas and move the dampers in
the air-handling unit to bring in more or less outside air. A central building-management system
allows not only scheduling but also remote off-site access by a member of the maintenance staff.
Remote monitoring enables staff to make sure lights, heating, and cooling are off at night and on
weekends. Most people think that building LEED certified buildings will make the greatest
environmental and financial impact. However, improving the operations and maintenance of
existing buildings and bringing them up to LEED standards actually makes the greatest impact
(Johansson). This efficient technology focuses on decreasing the consumption of energy whether
renewable or nonrenewable. Thus, it makes less of an ecological footprint and paves path
towards a movement that does not need a greater supply of natural gas. It focuses on efficient
technology and promotes a sense of abstinence or control for energy consumption.
An example of a green building design is at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
that focused on environmentally sustainable design elements. Green features had been integrated
into the design seamlessly and at little or no extra cost, ensuring their survival during the budget-
cutting process. One chief focus of the projects approach to sustainable design involved storm-
water management on land that had been altered significantly by previous development. During
21
storms, significant volumes of runoff from the site flowed rapidly onto a nearby highway,
creating perilous conditions for motorists. Along with areas of lawn and other traditional
landscaping features, the site features a series of rain gardens to promote the infiltration of storm
water and direct runoff to bioswales. By creating a long path for the water, the bioswales help to
slow the flow so that contaminants can settle (Landers). Having a sustainable building design
includes many environmental and economic benefits. The whole purpose behind sustainable
building is to preserve the environment and avoid the depletion of the earths natural resources.
When sustainable substitutions are made throughout each phase of the projects development it
allows us to: protect the ecosystem, improve air and water quality, reduce waste streams, waste
reduction, reduce emissions, conserve water, and conserve and restore natural resources, such as
fossil fuels for energy.
Maximizing the efficiency of patient rooms while maintaining patient comfort was
another key goal for the project. To this end, full-scale mockups of patient rooms were
developed to facilitate design efforts. Although the industry standard for patient rooms is roughly
300 square feet, the team was able to create 217 square feet rooms without sacrificing
functionality or patient comfort. The resulting patient rooms represented one of the bigger green
moves on the project. The reduction in space requirements decreased the projects capital costs
by an estimated $3.75 million while also lowering energy costs and costs related to operations
and maintenance (Landers). Not only does sustainable building improve the quality of our
environment but it also has many economic benefits as well. By using sustainable materials,
reducing energy consumption, and improving water efficiency it will enable society to: optimize
the life cycle of the green buildings, reduce operating costs, increase property value, and more.
22
Of course, with this movement of green design, some argue, such as the Federal
Government, that hydraulic fracturing is method that extracts a green energy source as well as
creating energy independence. There are numerous reasons why the United States wants to
switch over to natural gas as a new source of fuel. First, the United States wants to become
energy dependent so to not rely on importing foreign oil form the Middle East. The Middle East
can be very unstable at times and it can cause great fluctuations in price in a short amount of
time. According to AGNA (Americas natural gas alliance) abundant supplies means that the
United State can make a stable energy market from natural gas. The great supply of natural gas
can also supply America with energy needs for years to come (Abundant). Furthermore, the
abundance of natural gas also means companies can run power plants from natural gas which
would drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions. According to Shale Gas- A Future
Alternative, natural gas emits significantly lower amounts of pollutants including carbon dioxide,
nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide compared to coal or oil (Ariketi). As a result, there becomes
an excuse for hydraulic as they have created this euphemism of a green energy. While it is
cleaner, it not renewable or sustainable through hydraulic fracturing whether it be emitting
greener gases or the environmentally damaging extraction method.
A population of the United States has a misconception that hydraulic is the answer for a
sustainable future. This wrong idea stems from the lack of environment education that American
citizens suffer. As a transition strategy for this notion is environmental education, which is
necessary to form a more knowledgeable society. Environmental problems are too serious and
complex to be solved solely through scientific approaches, technical and purely legal. More
public involvement is need in the United States to bring forth an awareness of environmental
issues such as hydraulic fracturing. For example, the Supreme Court of India has passed a law
23
making it mandatory to teach Environmental Education throughout India (Dudhapachare). In
India, the central and state governments have issued regulation the implemented an
environmental curriculum in schools and colleges from 2007-2008. The course at the schools and
universities consists of theory periods, field visits, and environmental projects. This course
aimed towards developing the environmental attitudes among the students and changing their
behavior about the environment (Dudhapachare). This is one project of many which helps to
raise awareness among the younger population, who will soon become the teachers. While the
diverse subjects in education have been long established in the United States, this provides a
model for implementing regulation to ensure environmental education at all grade levels in the
United States no matter the school. By doing so, informed citizens of the United States then can
make the decision for themselves whether they want or do not want hydraulic fracturing.
There is not one answer to resolving the conflict involved with hydraulic fracturing.
Select stakeholders may view this as an economic opportunity with revitalizing towns and
creating thousands of new jobs. Others support hydraulic fracturing because it merely produces
million dollar profits. Meanwhile, people consume natural gas significantly promoting hydraulic
fracturing, as it has become an invisible staple in society for residential and commercial use.
While these are reasons to encourage the method of hydraulic fracturing, there is a larger picture
implicated as a significant stake in the world is at risk with this method with the potential for air
pollution and water contamination that ruin the lives of so many in the future. Transition
strategies from this are possible but it must be done so through multiple facets since hydraulic
fracturing has infiltrated various parts of society. The good news is that there have been very
successful transitions into a more sustainable future that does benefit the world as a whole. Yet,
it is up to those in power to once again become in sync with the environment whether through
24
policy, education, infrastructure, or a truly green economy. If those in power were to finally
commit to green strategies, society would exit the dying world into a brave new world.









































25
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