During the first quarter of this year, Germany’s renewable energy sources provided 25 percent of the country’s electricity demand. One day this past month that record was broken when nearly 75 percent of the energy demand was provided by renewable sources. So freudenschrei for renewable energy and wurst! How much of the United States’ electricity is provided by renewable sources?, 17 percent. In what is supposed to be the world’s greatest country, we are failing miserably when it comes to many things, but not the least is alternative energy. We still have an undying love for petroleum products, coal and natural gas. Unfortunately, there are a lot of problems with using these. One of the biggest is that they’re finite. Some people think the answer to this problem is fracking, but it’s still a temporary answer. While fracking does give us access to previously inaccessible gas, the problems with it far outweigh the good.
One of the biggest problems that people in fracking areas have seen is that the water becomes contaminated. And by contaminated, I mean flammable. A homeowner in Weatherford, Texas, discovered that when he held a lighter up to the water coming out of his garden hose, it caught fire. And other residents in the area discovered that they, too, were the proud owners of Texas’ own brand of fire water. In wells that are located near fracking sites, the methane levels are 17 times that of wells that aren’t being contaminated by our thirst for natural gas.
As if turning drinking water flammable wasn’t bad enough, fracking also increases seismic activity, which shouldn’t be a surprise to any Arkansan. The state has since banned fracking wastewater disposal wells within a 1,150 square mile area north of Conway, and surprise, the seismic activity has decreased. That doesn’t mean the land and water has miraculously cleaned itself, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Earthquakes and poisoned water aren’t the only ills caused by fracking. There’s also all of the water used at each fracking site. For each fracturing job, it takes 1 to 8 million gallons of water. Each job takes enough water to take anywhere from 20,000 to 160,000 10-minute showers. That’s a lot of cleanliness. Fracking also uses about 300 different chemicals including formaldehyde and radium. Drink up, everyone. The water is fortified with nutrients. Then throw in some land and air contamination, roads being damaged and voila! You have a shitstorm
So, all of the above should horrify a thinking person, but the government still won’t ban it across the country. The only thing I can think of is that the reason they won’t ban it is because big oil has them by the balls. But then I remember that the government doesn’t have balls, so I’m led to believe that big oil has castrated the government and carries the remains of that castration in a leather pouch that has been heavily oiled with petroleum products.
Sunlight and wind are both natural resources that aren’t finite, and they don’t come with as many problems as fracking. We could give up natural gas and use solar and wind power to heat our homes and our water which would no longer be a methane cocktail. We should probably look at Germany as a mentor, a big brother, a favorite teacher and then follow their lead, preferably sooner than later. Sunlight is necessary to life. Natural gas isn’t.
Rachel Birdsell is a freelance writer and artist. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org