Overview

The US is currently undergoing an energy boom largely because of the development of the greatly expanded use of a well technique developed over 40 years ago – hydraulic fracking. It can be used for both oil and natural gas wells.. The technique allows previously unrecoverable oil and gas in old, played out wells to be accessed and increases the efficiency of recovery in new wells significantly. The current level of both recovery and new well drilling is dramatically higher than it has been for decades. The dramatic increase in well activity, some of which has been near towns and places no one thought drilling would ever occur. It has brought a great deal of attention to the technique and associated effects on everything from ground water and air pollution, to biodiversity disruption and earthquakes.

One important fact to weave into your opinion about fracking pro or con is that all of the sub-surface mineral rights in the US are owned by someone (a private individual, a business, or the state or federal government) but surface and mineral rights can be separated, i.e. sold. Originally, mineral rights were sold along with the land and then companies or individuals could decide if they wanted to keep or sell the mineral rights. Before mineral rights were so valuable, many people opted to sell their mineral rights to oil & gas companies. It never occurred to many people that someone would actually be drilling on their property or their neighbors. Oil and gas companies have a legal right to exercise their ownership options and if you are going to say “no” to them, then you owe them for what you are not letting them have, i.e. the money that would be produced if they were allowed to drill. This is not a trivial issue.

Instructions

This week’s discussion focuses on the pros and cons of hydraulic fracking and asks for your SCIENCE informed opinion on whether the economics and political fossil fuel issues justify the negative tradeoffs.

Address each of the following in your discussion:

  1. How is fracking done and why are companies doing this action versus traditional drilling?
  2. Are the environmental issues with fracking worse than conventional drilling?  Why or why not?
  3. Why are people along the Front Range and in other states where fracking is widespread, so upset about it now even though fracking has been occurring for a long time?

*In your initial post, please provide 3-4 references in APA format with in-text citations.

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