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< Back to question Is shale oil a sustainable business model? Show more Show less

The drilling of shale oil has been hailed as revolution that has brought cheap gas and oil to American and made America a net exporter of oil and natural gas. However, there is serious debate as to whether shale is a sustainable business model given the high number of bankruptcies in the sector. What are the positions on the shale operating model?

Shale drilling is bad for the environment, independent of any poor financial outcomes Show more Show less

Shale oil destroys the landscape and leaves a large pockmarked surface polluted by chemicals. The long run environmental problems of shale make it a poor business model, as communities are left to pick up the pieces.
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Shale oil extraction results in air pollution

Fracking releases cancer-causing chemicals into the air. Such a reality forces residents to move far away from their homes in hopes of protecting their families. Those who cannot move away are punished by the conditions that were not their doing. Fracking companies deny the existence of fracking induced air-pollution.
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The Argument

Samples collected by citizens participating in a community science study found that their area of residence—a region laying in close proximity to shale gas wells— recorded high levels of benzene, hydrogen sulfide, and formaldehyde. Although based off a small sample, such results are not uncommon. Instead, a study conducted in 2014 took 35 "grab air" samples from 11 sites across 5 states.[1] People living within these areas were asked to collect these samples when they were feeling unwell or knew that heavy activity was occurring. The researchers also monitored for formaldehyde in 41 “passive” tests.[1] In 16 of the grab samples and 14 of the passive tests, lab analysts found hazardous chemicals at concentrations exceeding official minimum risk levels. These included benzene and formaldehyde, which raise the risk of cancer, and hydrogen sulfide, which causes eye and respiratory tract irritation, fatigue, loss of appetite, headache, irritability, poor memory and dizziness. “We explored air quality at a previously neglected scale near a range of unconventional oil and gas development and production sites that are the focus of community concern,” said lead researcher at the University at Albany, David Carpenter.[1] He stressed that the study highlights the “worst-case concentration” of these substances, not the average exposure.[1] Not only have the results of these studies been replicated numerous times and relentlessly supported by citizens who are forced to wear respirators within their homes, but fracking companies within Colorado have also admitted to such conditions being the reality for many. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a group that claims fracking can be done safely, helped create new regulations to prevent air pollution from worsening in the Rocky Mountain region.[2]

Counter arguments

According to research conducted by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), there is ample evidence that increased natural gas use— made possible by fracking— has improved public health by dramatically improving air quality. That is not to say that issues are not present within the system. Rather, risks are plentiful. However, the full body of research on the issue of air quality in relation to fracking clearly demonstrates that such risks are manageable; subsequently, fracking companies have taken precautions.[3] For example, several state departments of environmental protection have installed air monitors at well sites and found that emissions during oil and natural gas development do not exceed public health thresholds. Specifically, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment released a 2017 report that found a “low risk of harmful health effects from combined exposure to all substances during oil and gas development.”[3] In contrast, many of the most headline-grabbing studies linking fracking to health issues have been plagued by questionable methodologies and contradictory results.[3]

Premises

Rejecting the premises


References

  1. https://www.climatechangenews.com/2014/10/30/fracking-may-release-cancer-causing-air-pollution-study/#:~:text=Fracking%20may%20release%20cancer%2Dcausing%20air%20pollution%20%E2%80%93%20study&text=Fracking%20wells%20may%20release%20cancer,extraction%20sites%20in%20the%20US.
  2. https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/colorado-fracking-companies-admit-to-major-air-pollution-problem-emissions-rules-proposed/
  3. https://www.ipaa.org/fracking/

This page was last edited on Saturday, 11 Jul 2020 at 04:02 UTC

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