While worldwide energy consumption continues to grow exponentially, the supplies of nonrenewable resources like oil and natural gas unfortunately continue to dwindle. Consequently, many people are beginning to advocate renewable energy as an alternative to fossil fuels. One particular method of obtaining petroleum and gas, known as fracking, has become an especially hot topic among energy enthusiasts.
Fracking (short for hydraulic fracturing) is the process of shooting a highly pressurized liquid mixture into a pre-drilled hole in the earth to create small cracks in the bedrock. These cracks give us access to fuels like natural gas and petroleum that we would otherwise not be able to harvest.
There are a few reasons why fracking is getting such a bad rap. The primary reason is because the injected liquid is infused with harmful chemicals, some of which are even known carcinogens. Shooting this liquid into the earth can lead to groundwater contamination. Another aspect that people are taking issue with is the enormous amount of water used in the liquid mixture, water that could instead be used for drinking, bathing, or irrigation.
Still, fracking clearly has its benefits. The oil and gas we’ve been able to collect through the process has significantly boosted domestic oil production, leading to a reduction in gas prices. It also allows us to generate electricity with about half the CO2 emissions as generation using coal.
So, if fracking is so controversial, why don’t we just make the switch to renewable energy? Simply stated, it would cost way too much. Energy generators like solar panels, windmills, and dams are all expensive to install and maintain. Another big issue is that they’re not very reliable since they all depend on weather. And unfortunately, even when the sun is shining, the wind is blowing, and the water is flowing, they’re still pretty inefficient.
Despite these obstacles, the benefits of renewable energy have convinced many people that it’s worth the extra cost. Possibly the most attractive feature is that it doesn’t pollute the environment; it’s as clean and environmentally friendly as power production can get. And, unlike fossil fuels, we never have to worry about these sources disappearing. Renewable energy is especially advantageous in regions where there’s no access to a power grid, as is the case in many third world countries.
When it comes right down to it, the truth is that neither fracking nor renewable sources by themselves can produce enough energy to satisfy the needs of our power hungry world. Since fossil fuel supplies are finite, we do know that there will come a day where we’ll have to depend on renewable energy. Right now, however, we depend on both.