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What the Frack is Fracking?

 Admit it. The first time you heard the term "fracking" you immediately pictured Yosemite Sam: 

Sounds like Yosemite Sam knew all along that fracking was bad!

In the natural gas business, fracking is slang for hydraulic fracturing.

What the rootin' tootin' heck is hydraulic fracturing? 

 In short, it's a way to get fuel out of rock by drilling deep into the earth and releasing natural gas by EXPLODING THE ROCKS IN THE SHALE LAYER. 

Boom
BOOM!

Are you picturing a full-on Michael Bay Transformers explosion? Oh. Well, it's not quite that awesome. There's no dynamite involved-just a mixture of water, sand, and toxic chemicals pumped underground with enough force to shatter shale rock. The process actually looks like this:

Shale_50833618_shale_extraction_diagram_464(image via the BBC)

 

So what's the big frackin' deal?

 Earthquakes. No, this is not a fangirl/film geek Michael Bay reference–turns out the fracking process can create small tremors. Man. Made. Earthquakes. Eleven in Ohio alone last year. Yeah, Ohio. (Not really an earthquake state.)

Methane Leaks. The process of extracting gas from shale also causes a good deal of methane leakage.  Methane leakage is problematic because a) stinky, b) major planet-warming greenhouse gas, and c) WATER! ON! FIRE!

 

Air Pollution. Those chemicals used in the fracking process? Turns out they're not so healthy to breathe… ok we're kidding they're totally poisonous. People who live near fracking sites are more likely to suffer from eye and skin irritation, headaches and nervous system damage, asthma, kidney and liver problems, and oh yeah-leukemia. 

Groundwater Contamination. How about a splash of benzine in your glass of water? No? Radioactive ice cubes? No?  Here in North Carolina (home of your favorite water filter company), our natural gas reserves are pretty frackin' close to our groundwater. That layer of rock between our water and our natural gas–it's not actually watertight. Which means those toxic fracking chemicals pumped deep underground could migrate upward and contaminate our water. The water we use for drinking, bathing, cooking, and growing food.

Say it with me: FREAKIN FRACKIN RACKAFRACKIN RASSAFRASSIN HAMMER HEADED HALIBUTS.

Waste. Today, nearly one billion people don't have access to clean water, while fracking injects trillions (repeat–trillions) of gallons of (now poisonous) fresh water in. To. The. Ground. 

Makes you want to go Megatron on somebody, right?

The Good News. Is there any? You bet your Shia LaBeouff there is. All across the country communities have banned fracking in response to grassroots groups committed to clean water.  A little education and a lot of passion go along way! Says activist Sandra Steingrabbler, "[My kids] are made of water. They are made of the food that is grown in the county that I live in. And they are made of air. We inhale a pint of atmosphere with every breath we take… And when you poison these things, you poison us."

 

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