Sometimes it seems like they’re playing Jenga, but against nature.
The fracking industry is not new, however, the qualitative leap that made it profitable was made possible thanks to the push of George P. Mitchel, who achieved competitive prices just at a time when oil prices were high. Just as Qatar focused its research on a very specific market niche, Mitchel also focused his research on fracking, achieving a real revolution. To put it in perspective, with fracking USA, it was able to stop importing gas, managing to supply its domestic demand and putting even more pressure on the international price of oil.
According to the most traditional publications (including Wikipedia), fracking represents an important percentage of US GDP. But, these figures are biased and, just a little bit of analysis is enough to show whether or not they are sustainable. But, beyond the degree of impact on GDP, the truth is that an industry that moves billions of dollars a year, precisely because of this, does not normally stop to repair environmental costs, or any type of “collateral damage”, either overall or individual.
Let us remember that this is an activity that uses ‘undeclared’ substances, which have a higher than high level of toxicity on one hand. On the other hand, it is an industry that generates a lot of employment, and a lot of income for the owners of the land where the deposits are located. That is to say, given this situation, only those who have been directly affected in their health, or by the deterioration of their properties, are those who have initiated actions against fracking, supported, later, by environmental defence organizations. In other words, not many governments are taking the lead against this practice.
One of the elements that may be present in the fracking process is thorium, which belongs to the family of radioactive substances, and whose half-life is so long that it releases radioactivity for billions of years. Another chemical element that may occur is radon, which is highly radioactive and belongs to the noble gas group, and is also linked to uranium. The half-life of Uranium is 704 million years. So how can we quantify the damage to nature if an error occurs with any of these substances?
Whether or not fracking is profitable from a purely accounting point of view is one thing, whether or not it is sustainable from a serious economic point of view is another. The fact that some governments encourage this practice, while others prohibit it, is a sign not only that conditions are diverse, but also that there is no one entity or group of entities that can certify that this or that exploitation is entirely harmless to nature, or that can quantify the possible damages, should they occur, along with the mechanisms for redress.