Pennsylvania's Fracking Experience

Hydro-fracturing sounds like an ideal form of finding alternative energy. Pennsylvania's experience with it would show otherwise.

Pennsylvania is the sixth most populous state and has the sixth highest Gross State Product (GSP) in the nation. In recent years, however Pennsylvania has been hit with economic issues. The steel industry that helped Pittsburgh become a major world city has been in decline for several decades. This has in turn hurt the city of Pittsburgh and much of Western Pennsylvania, where my parents live, as US Steel was and is a major employer in the area. In order to erase the losses that the decline of the manufacturing industry has caused, many local governments and private employers are turning to other methods that could potentially improve their local economies. One method that has been discussed has been hydro-fracturing or “fracking.”

Fracking is a process where oil wells break the structure of rocks (fracking is a shortened term for fracturing) in order to produce more resources of oil and natural gas. Along with mountain top removal, this has become a popularly debated environmental topic in recent years, particularly in the Midwest where the economy has been struggling.

There have been attempts in recent years for oil and energy companies in Pennsylvania to popularize fracking within the state. One energy company, Talisman Energy, went so far as to produce a 24 page picture book with a dinosaur called a Fracosaurus. The protagonist explains to children the energy process behind fracking and how it supposedly does not harm the environment. The Fracosaurus recently gained attention on the Colbert Report which mentioned that Talisman Energy was cited 145 times for environmental violationsin 2010 by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The cartoon created such an uproar that Talisman Energy just announced that they are discontinuing the book and character. It was also mocked by Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) at an Energy and Mineral Resources and Agriculture Joint Subcommittee meeting saying that it created “a magical world…with smiling rocks and grinning animals” and that it avoided the environmental issues that fracking creates.

Other state and local governments are taken action against fracking. New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina have all put moratoriums if not outright bans on fracking because of the environmental concerns. There is concern particularly in New York and New Jersey that the Delaware River could become heavily polluted due to excessive fracking. Even in Pennsylvania this has been a problem. A fracking well in Bradford County released thousands of gallons of fluids into the Susquehanna River negatively effecting the local environment…and the local economy. 

In order to improve the economy, we must continue to look for alternative sources to energy including wind and solar. At the same time, we have to understand that just having alternative energy will not solve the problem as wind and solar power often have problems such as not always functioning when people need to have electricity.