Fracking: What is it and why it's controversial

The story

You’ve heard about hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking. And chances are, you’ve also heard 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 2015, geologists in Oklahoma 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?

In 2014, 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. The feds followed suit and Obama introduced a rule to limit fracking on public land. But the Trump administration announced that it wants to repeal that rule. TBD on where all this lands.


Fracking’s completely changed the US’s energy industry. And the US is on track to make 2018 a record year for domestic oil production. But for politicians, to frack or not to frack is still a big question...

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