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By Sophia Gengler

Sophomore, GW

Drilling for natural gas through the use of hydraulic fracturing must be abolished as a source of energy in the United States for the preservation of our drinking water, atmosphere, and climate. With the onset of global climate change, we must not only act with immediacy to preserve this planet for our posterity, but we must also demand elected officials take any steps necessary to preserve the Earth. As acknowledged by the United Nations, we have 10 years left to prevent irreversible climate damage. Fracking is but one element that releases methane into our atmosphere and contributes exponentially to global climate change. 

Fixating on the negative effects of fracking in surrounding communities reveals increased water contamination, increased soil salinity levels, and the onset of unnatural earthquakes. Hydraulic fracturing involves the use of chemicals in a water mixture to release the gas inside the earth, of which these chemicals contribute to water contamination in surrounding areas. Not only does fracking runoff contribute to local water supply contamination, but the high salinity of the water used in the fracturing process harms local soils with increasing salinity levels. Both wastewater disposal and the fracking procedure contribute to earthquakes of magnitudes of M5.8 in states such as Oklahoma. This is due to the unnatural fluid injection into geological formations with proximity to fault lines. 

Beyond the effects of fracking on local communities, including an utterly unjust targeting of Indigenous communities, fracking over consumes resources such as water. Hydraulic fracturing requires upward 1.5 million gallons of water per well in the United States which is taken from local communities or imported from other regions; overall decreasing the water supply at an exponential rate.

Regarding global climate change, a tragedy of which none of us can escape, hydraulic fracturing plays an important role. Fracking produces the global greenhouse gas of methane at a rate of 13 million metric tons per year, due to a leak rate of 2.3% of production. Methane alone accelerates global warming by 84 times that of carbon dioxide.

Though fracking contributes less to global climate change than the fossil fuel industry, it is the least optimal solution to a transition to clean energy. Time is of the essence. We, as a species, no longer have the luxury of incrementalism. It is imperative that the United States government adopts feed-in tariffs, renewable portfolio standards, and clean electricity standards to stimulate the development of renewable energy. Efforts such as divestment campaigns and enhanced activism around climate justice must intensify to broaden the conversation and ensure the prominence of climate change as a critical topic of political change. 

By implementing resolutions such as the Green New Deal and rallying behind progressive climate advocates in politics, we as a population can ensure our vitality as a species. The Green New Deal explicitly advocates for investment into clean energies and technologies. Hydraulic fracturing is by no means a clean energy source, and must not be adopted within climate policy. Future administrations must recognize the pertinence of renewable energy sources, otherwise communities such as Pawnee, Oklahoma will experience increased earthquakes and water pollution as a result of the inaction of their government. Any investments towards energy sources that are not renewable are detracting from zero-carbon solutions such as solar and wind energy. 

Global climate change is the greatest human rights crisis of our time and inaction within such an injustice is complicity in the injustice itself. Anything less than a just and immediate transition towards clean energy is simply not enough to curb the impending onset of climate change. Inaction or lack of direct action due to economic hindrance or political obstruction is at the cost of human vitality.

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