Fracking or hydraulic fracturing is a method of freeing oil and gas from the tight grip of some deep wells by fracturing whole rock formations. It has been associated with a number of problems, including destruction of aquifers that bring water to wells and springs, destroying the quality of many of the wells and springs by polluting them, causing earthquakes, and releasing large amounts of methane into the atmosphere.
The overall and final effects are not completely understood. One clear result is that fracking destroys the land for these drilling sites, permanently. Studies from such organizations as Princeton University and the US government do show more than enough reasons that this is clearly not an option we should be using.
Vermont banned fracking in 2012, but the state did not ban use of natural gas, some of which comes from fracked wells. To make matters more complicated, natural gas pipelines are being laid from South Burlington to Middlebury and Vergennes, and from there to Ticonderoga, New York.
The new pipeline, which could carry gas from fracked wells in other states and Canada, leads us to a dilemma. Now that we have banned fracking in Vermont, should we buy gas produced by this process in other areas? Unfortunately, a closer look at the dilemma makes the answer appear less clear.
We might take the actions of Middlebury College as exemplifying the problems. Middlebury seems to be supporting the pipeline. This does not mean that the college supports fracking, however, or even the use of natural gas. The same pipeline that carries natural gas from out of state can carry bio-methane from digesters located some miles from the college. By using bio-methane, the college hopes to reduce its use of oil by 640,000 gallons per year. By using the pipeline, the college hopes to eliminate the need to truck gas from the digesters to the campus.
The natural gas, fracked or not, will also allow homes and businesses to convert from other, more costly – and more carbon intense – fuels, reducing their carbon footprint. It will not eliminate the carbon footprint, but it will reduce it. If it comes from fracked wells, it might do as much harm as good.
We have questions. Should we oppose fracking everywhere, or should we use fracked gas to reduce our carbon footprint here in Vermont? Should we oppose the pipeline?
We at Green Energy Times oppose fracking absolutely, regardless of where it is done. We oppose the use of natural gas because it is a fossil fuel that contributes to climate change, though we must acknowledge that the change from oil or coal to natural gas is better than no change at all. As to pipelines, the day may come when they carry bio-gas or synthesis gas, with very little negative effect.
We have to keep working, but we believe that the best places to putting our efforts are to replace the sources of fuels, moving from fossil fuels to renewables, with as much as possible coming from local sources. This is one of the important steps to lead us into a sustainable future and energy independence with clean, renewable energy sources.