Fracking Facts: Cleaner Than Coal

Fracking Facts Emissions
Fracking Facts Emissions

The fracking boom in the Eagle Ford and across the country, beginning around 2008, has caused a huge unexpected benefit: the shift away from using coal as a primary energy source to using the cleaner alternative of natural gas.

Related: Is Fracking Safe?

Hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale formations by use of water and chemical mixture.

Although fracking is extremely cost efficient and productive, it has remained under fire for the last eight years as some claim it causing extreme harm to the environment.

Following is a quick look at the two most important potential environmental hazards of fracking compared to the production/mining of coal.

Fracking Fact: Less Water Contamination

The number one argument against fracking by environmentalists is the concern over water contamination. But current research suggests that coal mining plants are actually much more likely to contaminate your drinking water.

  • A recent study by Duke University states, ‘New data from 236 domestic wells from Pennsylvania and New York states show no systematic difference in chloride, barium, chromium, boron and arsenic contents in wells located in ‘active’ zones and ‘non-active’ areas’.
  • ‘...only 42 documented incidents of such problems (water contamination), out of tens of thousands of wells drilled.’ (MIT)
  • Of the 290 coal plants observed by the EPA, 132 reported contaminated surface waters and 123 contaminated surface waters.
With respect to arsenic, boron, cadmium, iron, lead, manganese, nickel, selenium and thallium, the 290 coal plants observed by the epa put as much strain on the environment as thousands of sewage plants. “In almost each instance, coal plants are the largest source of each of these pollutants nationally.

Fracking Fact: Fewer Emissions

A 2011 study done by Carnegie Mellon University states that ”wells in the Marcellus region emit 20 percent to 50 percent less greenhouse gases than coal used to produce electricity”.

Here are the top four emissions that make coal so fatal:

  • Sulfur Dioxide- Coal plants are the number one source of SO2 pollution in the U.S. causing acid parties that can penetrate the human lungs and acid rain.
  • Nitrogen Oxide: NOx is the number one contributor to smog pollution.
  • Particulate Matter(soot)- Causes a wide array of breathing problems ranging from asthma, recurrent bronchitis and death.
  • Mercury- Coal plants cause over half of the U.S. mercury emissions (caused by humans).

In today’s world, vast amounts of energy are needed to sustain our quality of life and as we collectively look at which energy sources are the safest for our world, the shift to natural gas over coal is a step in the right direction.