Natural Gas and its Effects on the Environment | Teen Ink

Natural Gas and its Effects on the Environment

July 31, 2023
By anthonysk0215 BRONZE, Sacramento, California
anthonysk0215 BRONZE, Sacramento, California
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

Fossil fuels persist increasingly in demand, trapped in shale rocks deep below. New
techniques like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking are used to attain the energy source we
use daily. In the Journal of Public Health Policy, researchers Tim Komarek and Atilla Cseh
explain, “Positive impacts are felt throughout the country in the form of lower natural gas
prices.... New job opportunities led to higher wages, lower unemployment, and less poverty,”
(465). However, despite the progressive economic activity, controversy has been brought over
the continuation of natural gas due to the ramifications of fracking and its environmental effects.
Nevertheless, multiple groups offer opposing points on the consequences of natural gas used in
the U.S.
Fracking uses substantial amounts of resources from the environment. Water is pumped at
high pressures to crack open the shale rocks, mixed with added chemicals to help smooth the
flow of fossil fuels from the broken shale rocks to the earth’s surface. According to a study by
Fordham Environmental Law Review, graduate Inessa Abayev explains how the average five
million gallons of water used in a fracking operation results in, “State agencies [carrying] a
heavy burden with ... anywhere from 15% to 80% of the original fracking fluids [returning] to
the surface after natural gas recovery,” (276). The amount of water used at high pressures can
severely impact areas with a shortage of water supplies or droughts. Although different processes
such as underground injection can solve the returning contaminated water, not all places in the
U.S. can dispose of wastewater underground. Industry members sideline the severity of the
contaminated water by addressing how the chemical additives only make up 0.5% to 2% of the
overall minerals and liquids. Although this may seem low, “1,333 gallons of hydrochloric acid,
1,695 gallons of a friction reducer, 2,211 gallons of an antimicrobial agent and 386 gallons of a scale inhibitor are very large amounts,” added to each operation (280-281). As this percentage
still returns to the surface, it does not equate to the low risk of contamination as industry workers
assert. As the wastewater returns to the surface, substances and minerals can be collected.
Abayev explains how the collected waste result in “wastewater up to five times as salty as
seawater” (281). This can make the environments of aquatic life and plants lethal, affecting a
source of food and energy humans rely on.
In addition, the leakage of methane from gas wells, pipelines, and other gas products has
created worry about the climate. An article by Elizabeth Geltman, a professor at the CUNY
School of Public Health explains the impacts of radon on “lung cancer, [while] some evidence
suggests it may cause other cancers such as leukemia” (Geltman and LeClair 9). This radon
release exposes radiation to the general public, causing long-term effects in the atmosphere. With
the hazardous pollution caused by fracking, Anna Lin-Schweitzer, master in public health, notes
its consequence on declining species, loss of habitats for animals, and deteriorating land
(Lin-Schweitzer). Additionally, greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere, increasing
climate change. A paper by Michael Klare, professor of peace and world security studies,
mentions how “Global consumption of fossil fuels is expected to rise by 46 percent between
2010 and 2040, CO2 and these other gasses will continue to accumulate in the atmosphere”
(Klare 61). With companies meeting the increasing energy demand, global temperature has
already risen by 0.85°C and is projected to increase by 2°C near the end of the century (63). As
these temperatures grow, northern regions with warmer winters will not need heating products,
many supplied by natural gasses, while dry and hot regions will demand more cooling systems.
Additionally, the process of fracking has been accused of causing earthquakes. With the
expansion of fracking into states like Oklahoma, increases in earthquakes have been documented. According to a report by Sage Publications, authors from Columbia University and
Loyola University note how Oklahoma experienced thirty-five earthquakes in just one week in
2015, whereas before 2009 had fewer than two earthquakes a year (Counts and Block, 934).
From a science agency created by Congress, “The recent increase in earthquakes in the central
United States is primarily caused by disposal of waste fluids” (USGS). This indicates how the
repercussions from fracking can lead to more disastrous products on the environment like
earthquakes. But, a seismologist at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio refutes that only some of
the wastewater causing the earthquakes were from fracking while the majority was from
underground aquifers (Rogers). This is similar to the arguments made by industry workers on
how fracking has no major environmental effects like water contamination.
Moreover, certain groups have denied these facts presented by researchers. A paper by
Inside Washington Publishers, which currently publishes seventeen newsletters, three E-letters,
and eleven online news services, stated that the American Petroleum Institute released a report
claiming no effects on water resources or drinking from the fracturing process (18). Although
this was asserted to be concluded from an immense number of credible sources and
peer-reviewed papers, the document does not cite any of the findings. Likewise, the agency’s
Science Advisory Board has urged further justification for the claim. An article by Joel Tarr, a
professor of history and policy at Carnegie Mellon University, and Karen Clay explains how
environmentalists have also praised natural gas for its substitution for coal and coal-burning
utilities, which they view as an improvement for cleaner air pollution and health (337). This
shows how environmentalists and industry workers agree that there are benefits to natural gas.
But, as this does not represent all environmentalists, others still question the validity of
improvements. In an Inside Washington Publishers report, an environmentalist explains the importance of an outside auditor to verify that companies are reducing their carbon footprint.
Some industry workers also agree that partnerships can help calculate an accurate cost of
emission reductions (14). This is necessary as certain gas industries claim that they have always
reduced emissions. Coming from the American Petroleum Institute (API), they have consistently
declared its devotion to new practices and technology to mitigate emissions. Along with partners
like The Environmental Partnership, “The U.S. oil and natural gas industry has invested an
estimated $355.9 billion 1990 – 2017 toward improving the environmental performance of its
products, facilities and operations” (API). This can be further defended by non-industry workers
such as the Environmental Protection Agency, a government-supported agency, that claims to
“work with states and other key stakeholders to help ensure that the economic prosperity from
unconventional oil and natural gas extraction does not come at the expense of public health and
the environment” (EPA). This opposes the arguments made by environmentalists, undermining
the criticism of natural gas harming the country’s surroundings.
In closure, the consequences of fracking operations in water contamination, pollution,
and earthquakes have been debated by multiple viewpoints. With the information provided,
solutions and alternatives have been presented regarding fracking. From the Ohio State
University, “Wind and solar power is renewable energy, which means it is clean, affordable and
theoretically inexhaustible” (OSU). Compared to fracking, this alternative can produce no
emissions to the environment but setbacks include commitment, the cost of switching energy
sources, and more. Additionally, the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law presents how most
of the radioactive materials which exceed the federal limit are in sludges and landfills, thus
requiring careful monitoring of radon and other materials (Geltman and LeClair 12). This

presents how monitoring your house and nearby surroundings for radioactive materials can help
reduce the chances of radon intake, fears that many environmentalists hold.


Works Cited

Law Review, vol. 24, no. 2, 2013, pp. 275–327. JSTOR,
“Alternative Energies.” Fracking, Why? The Ohio State University,
“Climate Action Framework.” American Petroleum Institute,
Counts, Gage, and Walter E. Block. “Fracking: A Creature of Government?” Energy &
Environment, vol. 27, no. 8, 2016, pp. 933–41. JSTOR,
“Does Fracking Cause Earthquakes?” Does Fracking Cause Earthquakes? | U.S. Geological
Inside EPA’s Clean Air Report, vol. 11, no. 8, 2000, pp. 13–14. JSTOR,
Geltman, Elizabeth Ann Glass, and Nichole LeClair. “Regulation Of Radioactive Fracking
Waste.” Vermont Journal of Environmental Law, vol. 19, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1–63. JSTOR,
“Industry, Health Groups Issue Competing Studies On Safety Of Fracking.” Inside EPA’s Water
Policy Report, vol. 25, no. 24, 2016, pp. 18–19. JSTOR,

Joel A. Tarr, and Karen Clay. “Boom and Bust in Pittsburgh Natural Gas History: Development,
Policy, and Environmental Effects, 1878–1920.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History
and Biography, vol. 139, no. 3, 2015, pp. 323–42. JSTOR,
Klare, Michael T. “Climate Change Blowback: The Threats to Energy Security.” The SAIS
Review of International Affairs, vol. 35, no. 1, 2015, pp. 61–72. JSTOR,
Komarek, Tim, and Attila Cseh. “Fracking and Public Health: Evidence from Gonorrhea
Incidence in the Marcellus Shale Region.” Journal of Public Health Policy, vol. 38, no. 4,
2017, pp. 464–81. JSTOR,
Lin-Schweitzer, Anna. “Integrated Effort Needed to Mitigate Fracking While Protecting Both
Humans and the Environment.” Yale School of Public Health, Yale School of Medicine,
30 Mar. 2022,
Rogers, Nala. “2019: The Year Fracking Earthquakes Turned Deadly.” Inside Science,
“Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas Development.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 1
Aug. 2022,

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