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Methane flare burning adds to long list if fracking evils

Methane flare at fracking well
Methane flare at fracking well
New York Times

It’s bad enough the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process uses massive amounts of chemical-laden water shot under extreme pressure into rock formations to force out shale gas that frequently contaminates nearby water sources and harms wildlife, but the methane byproduct is a more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Natural gas is supposed to be the “clean” alternative to coal, but is it really and at what cost?

Researchers have found that unburned methane leaks are prevalent across the nation almost 8 percent of the time, which in itself contributes to global warming since methane is 86 percent more dangerous that carbon emissions.

Fracking and methane flare burning are largely unregulated, but the Environmental Protection Agency came out with new carbon capture requirements for coal powered plants this year.

Therefore, add to methane leaks the increased number of earthquakes in states with a lot of fracking operations, human health risks and potential environmental damage; the industry’s rosy argument that natural gas is the “clean” way to go becomes a lot less “clean” and a lot less “rosy”.

Furthermore, experts claim that burning off methane excess is a major waste of energy and is seen as a step backwards in terms of domestic energy.

Sara Bernard recently reported in Grist:

“In North Dakota alone they burn off enough natural gas every day to heat 100,000 homes and globally the practice adds as much CO2 to the atmosphere every year as 77 million automobiles.”

In addition, fracking fields strewn with burning methane flares have become so dominant in larger projects, like North Dakota’s 15,000 square-mile Bakken operation, that light burning from methane flares can be seen from space.

SkyTruth is a website that tracks such images around the globe and a report in Grist claims that approximately 40 percent of the burning flares across the US are from fracking projects.

The US has conducted over a million hydraulic frackuring operations since the process was developed in 1947, with most occurring in the past few decades.

But even with public sentiment increasingly turning against fracking and the underrated risks of methane flaring getting more exposure—the fossil fuel industry doesn’t appear ready to make changes anytime soon.

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