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Fracking, Russia, and the False Promise of Energy Independence
Movement Monday 3/14/22
As a general rule, I try to keep middle school memories buried deep inside, but I was recently reminded of a video I watched in 8th grade science class featuring a tune called “The Fracking Song (My Water’s on Fire Tonight)” and thought it might actually be relevant to share. The song, as you can see (hear?) below, is surprisingly catchy and informative:
If you didn’t catch it in the song, fracking is a way of extracting natural gas from underground by pumping in water to create fractures deep in the earth and thereby releasing natural gas. Back in the early 2010s when I was in 8th grade and this song was released, people were mainly concerned about the water pollution that fracking could cause (I mean, check out this video of a woman lighting her tap water on fire), and climate change was more of an additional nasty side-effect (not to mention the earthquakes). Ten years on, the climate concerns are definitely coming to the fore of people’s attention.
Why is fracking bad for climate change? First off and most obviously, it’s a way of getting at fossil fuels that were previously too difficult to access, and continuing to burn more and more fossil fuels is pretty much a death wish for the planet at this point. Second and less well-known is that fracking releases a lot of methane, which is a much more potent, if shorter-lasting, greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The bad news is that all of the methane released from fracking is heating up the world really rapidly; the less bad news, however, is that if we’re able to lower methane emissions, that can actually have a relatively large short-term benefit (something we wouldn’t see from immediately reducing carbon dioxide emissions).
In general, fracking has been poorly regulated across the US (surprise, surprise) with the federal government pretty much leaving it up to the states to figure out the necessary regulations. As a result, we’ve seen more and more fracking initiatives pop up across the country, even as the climate crisis looms larger and larger over our heads. In response, though, we’ve also seen communities all across the US start campaigns to ban fracking in their area, and there was even talk of a national ban on fracking on federal public lands during this past presidential election (no action, yet though).
Part of what makes fracking attractive to many in the US is that oil and gas companies have painted it as a way to achieve the much-sought-after goal of American energy independence (i.e. we wouldn’t be reliant on foreign fuel), even though both the ends and the means of energy independence seem questionable. With the recent invasion of Ukraine, this aspect of the debate on fracking has been reinvigorated like never before. Even the UK, which has a national ban on fracking in place, is considering turning to fracking to not rely on Russian energy supply. And while I’m all for cutting off Russia’s fossil fuel economy, it also seems clear that turning to fracking to eke out all the fossil fuels that we can is not a good solution. Plus, not all fossil fuels are the same, so increasing the amount of fracking wouldn’t necessarily lower our need for the type of oil Russia supplies. Please, don’t just take my word for it though, and check out former UN general secretary Ban Ki Moon’s take on the situation (“not a good idea” to turn to fracking), in addition to an interview with an oil markets expert on why fracking is not the solution we need.
If you’re looking to take action this week, here are some anti-fracking campaigns you can participate in:
No More Fracking on Our Public Lands - send an online message with Wild Earth Guardians
Stop PVSC Gas Plant - phone bank with Food and Water Watch (happening this week! Tue-Fri)
Sign up! Ask Elected Officials to Support a Fracking Ban - volunteer with Food and Water Action
Demand Congress Invest in a Clean Energy Future - send an online message with the Union of Concerned Scientists
In other climate movement news, there have been large climate protests happening across France this past week ahead of upcoming elections, and Extinction Rebellion Boston is hosting a virtual meeting about how to get involved in the climate movement on Wednesday evening (Mar 16).
And last but not least, a very happy pi day to you all!