Commentary: Fracking Not A Panacea For Ohio

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What the frack is going on in Ohio?

Eleven earthquakes over the past year – that’s what’s going on.

While fracking may sound like ringing cash registers to the ears of gas executives, it sounds more like Carol King to the rest of us – “I feel the earth, move, under my feet…”
Shale gas drilling, as President Obama referred to it during his State of the Union speech, is in boom times right now. And like most politicians he wants to capitalize on it. Of course it’s possible that boom is coming from someone’s house blowing up.

According to endless YouTube videos of homeowners lighting their tap water on fire, but more importantly, according to several Duke University researchers, who completed a peer reviewed study in 2011, fracking has been linked to water pollution, and other researchers say the disposal wells, like those near Youngstown, have been linked to earthquakes and exploding homes due to methane build-up.

Perhaps rebranding it as shale gas drilling will make the flammable tap water taste better, especially since the drilling isn’t the problem, it’s the use of water to pressurize the ground below us and force natural gas out of the earth for collection – not to mention the then storage of that polluted water.

The move for greater domestic fuel production, spurred on by turmoil in the Middle East, has consequences. For politicians and industry leaders those consequences include increasing already astronomically high profits and using a small portion of them to, ahem, support candidates.

However for the rest of us those consequences hit more than just our wallets.
Those consequences include disasters – like the gulf coast oil spill, too many dead West Virginia coal miners, the Japanese nuclear plant meltdown, and, those eleven Ohio earthquakes.

But maybe you’re thinking, aw, he’s just a crazy environmentalist picking on Big Oil.
I’ll admit, even renewable energy has repercussions. Wind and water turbines kill birds and alter fish migration patterns, solar arrays take up a significant amount of space, and those potato-powered-clocks just aren’t going to solve all our energy needs.

Maybe those consequences aren’t quite the same as creating oceanic dead zones or turning soil radioactive – but they’re still consequences.

So why not power everything with renewable energy? Why not forget about oil, nuclear and especially fracking? Because our ability to produce enough renewable energy doesn’t exist yet.

But it will if we choose to change the status quo.

I believe the answer is to focus on lowering energy consumption through a combination of carrot and stick methods, rewarding low consumption and penalizing higher consumption. Until industry and individuals learn to control their energy appetite we’ll never satisfy our needs, and those hazards of fossil fuel production won’t go away, they’ll just creep closer and closer into our own back yards.