This is a guest post by David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington.
At least 38 earthquakes in Northeastern B.C. over the past few years were caused by hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, according to a report by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission. Studies have found quakes are common in many places where that natural gas extraction process is employed.
It’s not unexpected that shooting massive amounts of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into the earth to shatter shale and release natural gas might shake things up. But earthquakes aren’t the worst problem with fracking.
Hydraulic fracturing requires massive amounts of water. Disposing of the toxic wastewater, as well as accidental spills, can contaminate drinking water and harm human health. And pumping wastewater into the ground can further increase earthquake risk. Gas leakage also leads to problems, even causing tap water to become flammable! In some cases, flaming tap water is the result of methane leaks from fracking. And methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide!
Those are all serious cause for concern—but even they don’t pose the greatest threat from fracking. The biggest issue is that it’s just one more way to continue our destructive addiction to fossil fuels. As easily accessible oil, gas and coal reserves become depleted, corporations have increasingly looked to “unconventional” sources, such as those in the tar sands or under deep water, or embedded in underground shale deposits.