There are numerous reasons why we should proceed with caution when it comes to hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), ranging from potential contamination of aquifers to questionable economics. Now, a new New York Times article highlights another great reason to slow down.
In this South Texas stretch of mesquite trees and cactus, where the land is sometimes too dry to grow crops, the local aquifer is being strained in the search for oil. The reason is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a drilling process that requires massive amounts of water.
“We just can’t sustain it,” Hugh Fitzsimons, a Dimmit County bison rancher who serves on the board of his local groundwater district, said last month as he drove his pickup down a dusty road.
In 2011, Texas used a greater number of barrels of water for oil and natural gas fracking (about 632 million) than the number of barrels of oil it produced (about 441 million), according to figures from the Texas Water Development Board and the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state’s oil and gas regulator.
In sum, what we have here is a fossil fuel resource that is almost certainly not sustainable as it's currently being produced. It's also highly problematic in a number of other ways, such as the fact that it takes more than a barrel of water to produce each barrel of fracked oil. In stark contrast, renewable energy sources - wind, solar, energy efficiency - offer an essentially inexhaustible source of power without the harsh and/or unsustainable impacts on the environment we see with oil and gas fracking. So, if we are going to frack, at the minimum we need to make sure that it's done in an environmentally responsible manner. That hasn't been the case, at least not consistently, to date. And that shouldn't be acceptable to any of us.