07/11/2012 17:37



In the Gulf of Mexico we just witnessed what happens when, in spite of the expertise and professionalism of the oil companies … something goes wrong.  Raw crude oil exploded into the gulf and not only did it create havoc for the local economy … it also wrecked the ecosystem. 

One thing is clear; damage was done on an incredible scale.  We also know there has been a massive effort to put a positive spin on the clean-up process.  What we don’t know is what the long term effects of this disaster might be.

Obviously, in today’s world, when technology fails us (as it does with predictable frequency) the damage can overwhelm us very quickly.  Crude oil spewed into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico for months before we found a way to cap the leaking well … and there is some speculation that it is still leaking (at a much lesser rate).  Fortunately there were deep sea robotics that could operate a mile deep in the ocean … indicating we had access to the point of the leak.

Now comes the idea of fracking (see Wikipedia … which is also a creation of the oil industry.  The best way to describe fracking is that they drill deep into the rock beneath our feet and then turn the drill so it continues horizontally.  They pump in high pressure steam with heavy concentrations of special chemical agents.  The high pressure steam is intended to actually fracture the rock strata and the chemicals are intended to help release any oil or natural gas held in that rock strata.   The companies that use this technology have a TV commercial that touts the jobs that will be created and the necessity to find additional sources of energy.  We are told this is good for the economy.

Issue #1:  The chemicals they use are probably extremely toxic.  We are talking about natural gas and oil products ... so the toxicity of these chemicals is not hard to imagine.  Equally, the chemical mixes used are seen as “corporate secrets” and they refuse to reveal what is in this stuff they are pumping at high pressure into the ground.

Issue #2;  Fracturing rock means opening spaces between the broken pieces … which in turn means that the rock strata around the targeted area must also be fractured (expanded by high pressure).  While they only want to fracture the stratum that contains the oil/gas … there is no way to fully control what other rock strata might fracture.  And as we already know, most rock stratum already has fissures of its own.  So, leaks are inevitable (or should I use the word guaranteed?).

Issue #3:  High pressure steam leaks containing toxic chemicals can migrate to the surface … or to our incredibly precious water aquifers … or even into our soils and air.

Issue #4:  If (or should I say when?) a leak does occur there are no deep-rock robotic thingys we can send a mile down into the rock strata to cap the well (or the leak).  It can and will continue until the pressure equalizes and then forever-after … the leaks will continue through what is called capillary action.  So in the case of an accident the damage is permanent and ongoing.  There is solid evidence some of these uncontrolled leaks have already occurred  (see

Issue #5:  It is a well accepted fact that every landfill, no matter how well maintained, will eventually leak.  See  It is also true that every fracking site will eventually leak ... this year or next, ten years from now ... maybe a hindred years  ... but all will eventually leak!  Now imagine for a moment, if you will, that some rogue fracking site begins to leak into the Oglala Aquifer … poisoning forever the water for 8 states in America’s heartland (see Wikipedia and you will be able to see that the Gulf oil spill was only child’s play by comparison.  Need I mention that America’s Heartland is the source of most of this nations food … and I think you can guess at what might happen if we try to grow our nation's food with a toxic water source.

I am all for finding new energy sources, new ideas to spur the economy and a path to creating new jobs.  But I ask you … is the potential for a disaster on this scale really work a toss of the dice?