The University of Colorado came out with a study this week (the study will be published in the next issue of Science of the Total Environment) that shows the very real health hazards presented to those who are unfortunate enough to live near a hydrofracturing well.
Hydrofracturing - also known as "fracking"- is the practice of pumping water into the shale surrounding pockets of natural gas. The pressure of the water fractures the rock surrounding the gas, allowing for easier extraction.
There are already thousands of hydrofacturing operations in Colorado. Governor John Hickenlooper has appeared in advertisements promoting fracking stating "Colorado recently passed the toughest—and fairest—hydraulic fracturing disclosure rule in the nation" which will keep the number of groundwater contaiminations within the state at zero.
A concern voiced by many who report that the runoff and byproducts of fracking operations have rendered their water unsafe for consumption. However, from the CU report: "The three-year study in Garfield County detected levels of chemicals such as trimethylbenzenes, aliaphatic hydrocarbons, and xylenes in the air. All those chemicals can have neurological or respiratory effects."
The culture we have come to know requires a great expendature of energy to keep moving. From heating and cooling buildings, food preservation, trasnportation, and electricity production - we need more natural resources to keep our current energy systems producing. When, though, is it too much? How sick does our population need to get on the byproducts of the energy production before we start looking for cleaner, more renewable energy sources?
Already Colorado is becoming a leader in renewable energy research and production. We are the home of the National Renewable Energy Laborator and SolarTac - testing sites for energy produced by solar and wind.
Whether you are for or against fracking and oil extraction, one thing has been consistently clear - the extraction of fossil fuels requires processing and many of the processing methods leave byproducts that are harmful to the ecosystem and everything that lives within it.
What solutions would you like to see happen sooner rather than later? What are you willing to sacrifice to see our energy come from cleaner, safer sources?