Fracking is the funky nickname for hydraulic fracturing. To successfully frack, miners pump a potion of chemicals, sand and water into the ground. This forces natural gas trapped in coal seams out into pipes where it is transported to the surface.
In Australia Coal Seam Gas (CSG) has become a boom industry. Who benefits from fracking? Mostly shareholders in large multinational corporations who employ as few Aussies as possible, contaminate our soil, foul our underground aquifiers and ship their profits (around 83%) overseas. How smart are we?
Fans of fracking make the good point that this fracked gas is cheap, there’s plenty of it and somewhat clean-burning. The fracking boom makes some people feel happy about energy security, creates jobs, wealth creation for shareholders and can temporarily boost parts of the local economy. What’s not to love about fracking?
Plenty as it turns out:
Fracking can contaminate water. Pumping all those mysterious chemical potions into the ground is simply a risk that has not been properly measured or considered. We just don’t know what this will impact on. Frackers say it ain’t so because there are more than 4,000 regulations around fracking in Australia making it very safe. What? Surely if you need more than 4,000 regulations around any activity it must be very close to dangerous – dodgy at best.
Fracking pollutes our air and our bodies. Studies have found that air near fracking sites contains carcinogens including benzene, a petrochemical know to cause bone marrow failure, cancer and other illnesses. This is not great news if you live close to a fracking site. People have also complained of headaches, nausea, nosebleeds, breathing problems, and memory loss (sounds like Saturday night at the local boozer). An American report by the Centre for Environmental Health reckons that living near a fracking site is particularly risky for pregnant women and children.
Fracking causes earthquakes. In breaking news a study published in the journal Science has shown that large earthquakes can set of smaller earthquakes in far away places where the dreaded fracking fluid has been pumped into the ground. Lead author Nicholas van der Elst from Columbia University (USA) noted that, “The fluids kind of act as a pressurized cushion. They make it easier for the fault to slide.” This is the first time scientists have made the connection between far away earthquakes and smaller earthquakes in fracking fields where the ground has been injected with the fracking fluid. “It happens in places where fluid pressures are naturally high, so we’re not so surprised it happens in places where fluid pressures are artificially high,” he said.
Fracking makes for unusual bedfellows. Conservationists, farmers, green groups and Sydney shock jock Allan Jones are all in furious agreement on the need to stop fracking. They are all united in their outrage that mining leases cover half of our country. This allows a mining company to rock up at you front gate and start fracking on you land. There is no consideration given to the fact that your land may be prime grazing or cropping country. There is less consideration given to the impact on underground aquifiers that provide water for crops, animals and farmers. The NSW government has frozen further fracking due to huge public pressure. Victoria has also put the frack on hold. This is not the case in QLD where the state government is actively encouraging the frack.
To frack or not frack, that is the question.
It’s important to remember that once you’ve fracked you can’t unfrack.
Cool Australia CEO – Jason Kimberley