A strange thing happened on the way to dealing with climate change: Advances in hydraulic fracturing put trillions of dollars’ worth of previously unreachable oil and natural gas within humanity’s grasp. The environmental costs – and benefits – from “fracking,” which requires blasting huge amounts of water, sand and chemicals deep into underground rock formations, are the subject of new research that synthesizes 165 academic studies and government databases. The survey covers not only greenhouse gas impacts but also fracking’s influence on local air pollution, earthquakes and, especially, supplies of clean water.
The authors are seven environmental scientists who underscore the real consequences of policy decisions on people who live near the wells, as well as some important remaining questions.
“Society is certain to extract more gas and oil due to fracking,” said Stanford environmental scientist Robert Jackson, who led the new study. “The key is to reduce the environmental costs as much as possible, while making the most of the environmental benefits.”
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