Why I Joined the Global Frackdown
I recently joined dozens of other activists in San Francisco to shed light on the destructive practice of hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking. As part of the Global Frackdown, our gathering beneath the Golden Gate Bridge coincided with simultaneous actions all over the world. In New York state organizers were chanting for their governor not to lift a moratorium on the extraction method that has already endangered the water and health of neighboring Pennsylvania. In South Africa, activists protested their country’s recent decision to lift a moratorium on shale gas drilling. These were just a few of the many events that day, all of them serving to demonstrate the growing worldwide resistance to the irresponsible practices of the natural gas drilling industry.
For as much effort as the industry puts into discounting the harmful effects of fracking, those of us who demonstrated have already reached our conclusion. We don’t need any industry-sponsored research to persuade us that pumping dozens of (often times undisclosed) chemicals and abrasive particulates into ancient rock formations at extreme high pressures is a “safe” method of gas extraction.
No matter how slick their graphics and advertisements indicating that natural gas is a safe alternative to other fuels because of its lower amounts of Co2, the industry cannot bury the fact that huge amounts of methane – a much more harmful greenhouse gas than Co2 – is released into the atmosphere through its extraction and burning. And we are not convinced that artificially low fuel prices (expected to rise again once the natural gas speculation bubble bursts within the next few years) are reason enough to accept a practice that threatens our water, is linked to earthquakes and continues the industrial world’s long time love affair with unsustainable fossil fuels.
It’s for all of these reasons and more that so many gathered together for the Global Frackdown. The fight against fracking has become the new front line in the environmental movement. As a resident of California, I live in a state where natural gas supplies 46.5 percent of all electricity. I know that even the machines on which I write these words and on which you are reading them are likely powered by this harmful power source. I know that unless enough pressure is put on the leaders of our state to order it stopped, fracking is going to continue to expand into the shale oil reserves near Los Angeles and beneath the Central Valley. As a resident of the Bay Area, I know that natural gas companies have already begun drilling our nearby reserves.
Maybe more importantly, I come to this fight as an Ohio native. My home state sits directly on top of the converging formations of the Marcellus and Devonian shales, two of the largest sources of potential natural gas in the country. To the east, Pennsylvania has already seen the effects of fracking into this reserve, with countless farmers selling their land and water rights in exchange for empty promises and contaminated wells. If the fracking lobby is allowed to expand, I know that my home is directly in their path. There could come a day when I return home for Christmas or in the middle of some balmy and unbearable summer, and the fields along the highways are sick with drills, the skies the same muddy brown reported above the gas fields of Texas. The U.S. Geological Survey already agrees that the six-fold increase in seismic activity in the central Midwest is potentially linked to the increase in speculative drilling. Whether it’s the house I grew up in or the apartment I live in now, I don’t have to wait until the roof starts to shake and the water starts to stink before I take action.
As a former organizer against Mountain Top Removal in rural Appalachia, I have seen firsthand how destructive energy extraction techniques can poison resources and devastate a landscape. But I have also seen how a community can mobilize against the outside forces that seek to exploit their home for short-term gain. And now, even before the fight for the mountains has been won, a new battle emerges that affects even greater areas of the country. In the fight against fracking, the front lines are everywhere.
Adam Hofbauer is a blogger and writer based in San Francisco. He is a recent graduate of the San Francisco State University Masters program in creative writing. His current writing on environmentalism and other issues can be found at www.theoverpicture.com.