theSkimm's Guide to

FRACKING

THE STORY

You’ve been hearing about hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking. And chances are, you’ve also been hearing some gassy opinions on it.

WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

Fracking’s the controversial way the US produces oil and gas at home. It involves shooting water, sand, and chemicals into the ground to free up the natural gas and oil buried in there. Like a facial for rocks. It’s been going on for decades, but drilling technology in recent years has made fracking much more prevalent in the US. This has pumped up the domestic oil supply, and pumped down gas prices.

YAY. WHY THE CONTROVERSY?

What’s good for gas prices isn’t necessarily good for the environment. There’s evidence that fracking causes earthquakes. In Oklahoma, geologists recently said quakes are way up in recent years -- and that’s mostly thanks to the state’s fracking. Meanwhile, the chemicals used in the process can contaminate water supplies. See: Texas and Pennsylvania. It’s become not just an environmental issue, but also a political issue.

WHAT DOES THE RIGHT SAY?

That fracking’s produced tens of thousands of jobs across states like TX, ND, PA, CO, OK, VA. That it’s actually good for the environment, since it decreases our reliance on coal. That it makes us depend less on foreign oil imports. And hellooo, are you really complaining about lower prices at the pump?

WHAT DOES THE LEFT SAY?

That no amount of oil can justify this F-you to the environment. That there’s not enough research, and we have no way of knowing the long-term effects. That we do know that fracking has already caused earthquakes across the US. That the process uses up way too much water and then produces way too much dirty, dirty water. And hellooo, shouldn’t you be focused on developing renewable energy instead of sticking with fossil fuels?

WHAT’S BEEN DONE?

Last year, New York became the first state with significant fracking abilities to ban the practice because of environmental concerns. Big deal, since there’s a lot of frackable rock under New York.

theSKIMM

Fracking’s completely changed the US’s energy industry. While the US doesn’t export oil regularly, it looks like that could happen in the future. But with prices this low, it's unclear whether the juice will still be worth the squeeze. To frack or not to frack is still a big question...one that’ll come into play on the 2016 campaign trail.