Continuously, news stations, reporters, journalists, and researchers bring up the issue of a global energy crisis. The world is highly dependent on nonrenewable energy resources, and the consumption of these resources rises each successive year at an unsustainable rate. While nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, solar, and geothermal energy have developed greatly over the past several decades, in the Northeastern United States, industries are developing the increased extraction of a different type of fuel. Rather than crude oil drilling, a successful industry throughout the rest of the world, industries in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and New York are tapping into the Marcellus Shale Formation for Natural Gas.
A key aspect to any new energy source is expense. In fact, the cost of other environmentally friendly and renewable resources is often limited specifically by the cost of production. To drilling companies in the United States, natural gas is readily accessible through a process known as fracking. This process uses hydraulically compress water to break up shale deep underground. When this shale fractures, natural gas is released and can then be extracted. Drilling companies realize that the key to successfully producing large amounts of natural gas efficiently is to limit the cost of extraction. However, while fracking is relatively inexpensive when compared to drilling for other fuels, it has severe environmental consequences.
The liquid used in the fracking process is not extracted itself and eventually enters into the local water supply. While the water initially hydraulically pumped is not a major pollutant, the fracking process releases harmful minerals that were previously trapped within the rock. Currently, environmentalists are trying to determine the full extent to which the minerals affect local watersheds. As these harmful minerals take time to cause significant and measurable effects on the environment, the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry will likely expand without regard for the full environmental impact of their drilling.
Foreign countries, including Great Britain and New Zealand, are beginning to invest heavily in their own natural gas industries after observing the success of the industry in the United States. Although natural gas provides a new energy resource, it is not at all renewable. Governments must be cautious of this new fossil fuel to avoid a gasoline-like dependence on natural gas in the future. The burning of fossil fuels in harmful enough to the environment let alone the use of a fossil fuel where the extraction itself is harmful. The Northeastern US, as well as other countries developing a fracking natural gas industry, must be careful that this new fuel sources does not turn out to be more harmful to the environment than originally expected.