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Topics Homepage> The use of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction does more good than harm

The use of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction does more good than harm

PRO (4 assertions)


1) Air pollution from gas drilling in Arkansas' Fayetteville Shale region imposed estimated public health costs of more than $10 million in 2008.

2) "For years now, I have had to live with toxic, poisoned fracked water in my home," said Ray Kemble, a former gas industry employee and an affected Dimock area resident.


Pre-Clarification: This only applies to the U.S.


Alternate Weighing Mechanism: Whichever side can prove that the use of hydraulic fracturing does more harm than good or good than harm towards the U.S. from an environmental standpoint and whichever better benefits the people of the U.S.



AT: causes earthquakes
 - It should be noted that these earthquakes are relatively small, and some experts, such as Stanford University geophysicist Mark Zoback, believe that these small earthquakes relieve pressure that could have caused larger earthquakes in the future


AT: dangerous - See 2nd assertion


AT: water with methane - A more recent study looked at 1,700 wells in the same area and found no relation between being close to natural gas drilling and having methane in your water.


AT: People don't support fracking - Robert Morris Univ pol (released Nov. 18 2013)- almost 60% support, about 40% against. U of Texas (October 2013) over 80% support fracking 


1. Assertion: Hydraulic fracturing helps the economy by creating many jobs and generating revenue for the government.

Reasoning: Many people have to be hired to manage these sites. All of the people needed, helps our economy, because it creates jobs. This is exactly what we need when we are at a recession, a job-creator that helps produce natural gas. In addition, fracking sites pay a lot of taxes to the government, which helps the government improve services to communities.

Evidence: U.S. Chamber of Commerce's 21st Century Energy Institute says the extraction of unconventional†shale oil and gas through hydraulic fracking has meant a job boom, with 1.7 million jobs already created and a total of 3.5 million projected by 2035. Ohio, which has a major part in US fracking, has already created 38,652 jobs and North Dakota, the US's leading fracturing state, has created a whopping 71,824 jobs. In the US in 2009, 44,000 new jobs were created by fracking. In 2010, 89,000 fracking-related jobs were created and in 2011 another 111,000 new jobs was created by fracking. Because of this, in the 10 states that use the most fracking, there will be almost 10% increase in jobs by 2015 due to this one industry. Considering the number of industries there are, for one field to create this many jobs is significant. Hydraulic fracturing has . . . boosted local economies” generating royalty payments to property owners, providing tax revenues to the government and creating much-needed high-paying American jobs. Engineering and surveying, construction, hospitality, equipment manufacturing and environmental permitting are just some of the professions experiencing the positive ripple effects of increased oil and natural gas shale development," Deborah Rogers points out in her report, Shale & Wall Street. According to a September 2013 review by IHS Global Insight, a company specializing in economic analysis, by 2015, the annual contribution of shale gas activity through hydraulic fracturing to the US gross domestic product is projected to reach nearly $197 billion, more than $22 billion of which will be from non-producing states. This shows that even in states that don't produce natural gas, there are substantial jobs and economic benefits. In total, the annual contribution to US gross domestic product is expected to more than double by 2035 to almost $332 billion. Furthermore, according to Yale Professor Emeritus Paul W. MacAvoy's paper The Arithmetic of Shale Gas, considering the current income from the fracking industry is $100 billion and the maximum possible cost of $250 million, the still exceed costs by a margin of 400 to 1. Furthermore, it concluded that due to the relatively cheap nature of fracking, as shown above, the resulting decrease in price of natural gas, now one seventh of what it was in 2006, $2 for 100 cubic feet as opposed to $14, (source = Energy Information Administration) is bringing manufacturing opportunities back to the US.

2. Assertion: Hydraulic fracturing is proven to be safe for the environment.

Evidence: As far back as 1995, the Environmental Protection Agency studied whether hydraulic fracturing contaminated drinking water. The EPA studied a site in Alabama at the request of environmentalists and found "no evidence" of "any contamination or endangerment of underground sources of drinking water." In 2009, another study from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Ground Water Protection Council ” an interstate body of environmental regulators” concluded that fracking is a "safe and effective" technology for producing energy from deep geological formations like California's Monterey Shale. More recently, Stanford University geophysicist Mark Zoback, who's also served as an advisor to the Obama administration, confirmed that fluids used in hydraulic fracturing "have not contaminated any water supply," and with more than a mile of rock separating deep shale formations and shallow drinking water aquifers, "it is very unlikely they could." As for earthquakes, a yearlong study released in 2012, the first of its kind in the state, at the Inglewood Oil Field in the Baldwin Hills area found "no detectable effects on vibration" and no water or air quality problems either from hydraulic fracturing. Perhaps that's because, as Zoback has explained, the amount of seismic energy released during hydraulic fracturing is about the same as "a gallon of milk falling off a kitchen counter." In fact, the National Research Council concluded last year that hydraulic fracturing does not pose a high risk of inducing earthquakes. Most recently, a study by the University of Michigan released in September concluded that the hydraulic fracturing process is safe, can co-exist with a healthy environment, and does not contaminate groundwater. Data gathered from water near hydraulically-fracked sites does not show evidence of effects of hydraulic fractures extending into overlying fresh water aquifers (p.7) In addition, judge, technology has been making fracking even safer: Scientists recently invented a fracking fluid that is so safe, you can drink it.

3. Assertion: The use of hydraulic fracturing for the extraction of natural gas drastically reduces the US's dependence on foreign energy.

Reasoning: Ever since the 1970s, energy independence and security has been one of the main goals for the US. Now, fracking finally makes this dream a real possibility.

Evidence: In 1973, Arab nations began a six-month oil embargo against the US. This resulted in immediate catastrophic effects for the US. This is the only time in history so far where the oil weapon has been successfully utilized against a nation. (Boston Globe) The oil weapon concept is where oil-exporting countries, such as those that produce petroleum and natural gas, use embargoes as a weapon during a diplomatic conflict to obtain what they want. This is possible, especially against the US until recently, due to our enormous dependence on imported fuels, according to a 2010 study by Dr. Stephen P.A. Brown, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research. Oil embargoes US are expected, said the study, to have substantial effects on economic activity. Furthermore, dependence on foreign oil puts the US at the mercy of international diplomatic relationships, according to former CIA director Jim Wooseley. However, with fracking, complete energy independence is now possible. Hydraulic fracking techniques pioneered over the last decade, with US government support, have made it possible to extract both shale oil and gas more efficiently. In 2012, according to the EIA, the US imported

only about 40% of its oil, down 60% from 2005. This is due, said the EIA, to the larger amount of fracking that enables shale gas and oil to be extracted at greater rates for cheaper costs. If these trends continue, the US will be able to supply all its energy by 2030 (source=EIA). 2012 was the first year where the US produced more gas and oil than it imported, due to fracking, said the EIA. The International Energy Agency and EIA predicted that if current trends continue, the US will achieve complete energy independence by 2035. Both agencies agreed that this would have been impossible without fracking. This, Judge, is an obvious good of hydraulic fracturing.


4. Assertion: Hydraulic fracturing has many benefits for the people.

Reasoning: Fracking has been a major factor in reducing air pollution, as natural gas burns cleaner than other fossil fuels. Fracking enables us to extract massive amounts of gas at cheap costs. Also, the cost of natural gas has gone down significantly due to fracking, resulting in savings for the people that are paying for it.

Evidence: An analysis by the RAND Corporation, a think tank specializing in policy analysis, found that mainly due to the increased use of fracking, leading to natural gas replacing other sources to fuel power plants, the US has led the world in greenhouse gas emission reduction over the past 5 years, eliminating about 350 million tons of CO2. According to an official release by the Bloomberg administration, the area around NYC has had the lowest level of air pollution in 20 years, due mainly to the increased level of natural gas use because prices dropped due to the increased use of fracking. A study by Stanford University's Energy Modeling Forum (EMF) released in October 2013, fracking is a key factor in reducing air pollution. The Energy Information administration (EIA) found that nationwide, CO2 emissions dropped by almost 5%, meaning that emissions are at the lowest they've been since 1994. Judge, fracking has made every household in the US $1,200 richer, according to the previously mentioned IHS Global Insight report. The report found that the "shale gas boom" is improving businesses and creating benefits for consumers, leaving positive effects on everyone. It predicts that by 2025, savings will reach $2,000 annually. And by 2035, they will reach $3,500. That is a lot of money. Furthermore, as mentioned before, natural gas prices are 1/7 of what they were in 2006, ($14 to $2) because of fracking. Homeowners nationwide are benefitting from reduced heating, cooling, and electricity costs due to fracking,†observed Yale Professor Paul W. MacAvoy. Judge, that means that you are saving money because of fracking.

CON (4 assertions)


1) The development of hydraulic fracturing is not just a regional oil or gas boom. It is an industrial revolution. stated Clay Jenkinson, a scholar at Dickinson State University in North Dakota.

2) Natural gas burns cleaner than most fossil fuels. It is an ideal energy source that we could use for the next 100 years. There are a lot of folks right now who are engaging in hydraulic fracturing who are doing it safely.€ stated President Obama on July 16, 2012 in a speech extracted by the same well



hydraulic fracturing- Hydraulic fracturing is the high-pressure injection of water, sand, and chemicals into geologic formations to open or enlarge and prop open fractures in the surrounding rock. As shale gas and oil flow into the well, flowback and produced water are returned to the surface.

natural gas- shale gas and shale oil, as both are often extracted during fracking



The proposition side of this debate will be referring to hydraulic fracturing as fracking. In addition, this topic only applies to the United States.


Weighing Mechanism:

Whichever side can prove that the use of hydraulic fracturing does more harm than good or good than harm towards the U.S. from an economic and environmental standpoint.




AT: creates jobs - According to the Center for American Progress, "The clean-energy sector produces more jobs per dollar than the fossil fuels industry." cheap- saving a little money vs. destroying the environment and jeopardizing the health of thousands of citizens. safe for environment- 2nd point proves not safe reduces energy dependence- true, but there are much better ways such as green energy. If they state 2004 EPA study as evidence for safety- The 2004 EPA study drew enormous criticism as being biased and not scientific. Thus, the federal government ordered that study declared void and a reevaluation, which will be released late 2014. This is an invalid source.

1. Assertion: Hydraulic fracturing causes great harm to citizens who live near these areas where fracking is done.

Reasoning: Fracking has been causing health problems to citizens who live near these drilling sites by contaminating water, polluting the air, etc., which clearly does more harm than good.

Evidence: A report in the Los Angeles Times revealed that Environmental Protection Agency officials found evidence gathered from agency investigators based in Philadelphia that found significant damage to the water quality, from poisonous contamination likely caused by fracking. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, fracking is a suspect in polluted drinking water in Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, where residents have reported changes in water quality or quantity following fracturing operations. Drilling of the Marcellus Shale, a 600 mile long has already begun in nearby Dimock Township, Pennsylvania, and so have the first reports of dangerous spills.

In September 2009, three spills of hydraulic fracturing fluid totaling more than 8,000 gallons polluted local wetlands and a creek, causing a fish kill. Furthermore, the process of fracking itself is based on over 600 known toxins and carcinogens that are devastating to human health, according to the  National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, which include lead, uranium, mercury, ethylene glycol, radium, methanol, hydrochloric acid, and formaldehyde. These chemicals then leak into the water supply, contaminating it and creating toxic water that is consumed by innocent citizens. Then, as the chemicals are pumped into the rock, methane gas and toxic chemicals leach out from the system and contaminate nearby groundwater. Methane concentrations are 17x higher in drinking-water wells near fracturing sites than in normal wells. Contaminated well water is used for drinking water for nearby cities and towns.There have been over 1,000 documented cases of water contamination next to areas of gas drilling as well as cases of sensory, respiratory, and neurological damage due to ingested contaminated water.The waste fluid is left in open air pits to evaporate, releasing harmful VOC's (volatile organic compounds) into the atmosphere, creating contaminated air, acid rain, and ground level ozone. Also, the evaporated toxins and carcinogens released into the air resulted in people living near fracking wells being exposed to dangerous levels of these substances 5x as high as the federal recommended standard, found a University of Colorado study.

The US Department of Labor recently warned that workers may be at elevated risk of contracting the lung disease silicosis from inhalation of silica dust at fracking sites. Silicosis is one of a family of dust-induced occupational ailments that imposed $50 million medical care costs in the United States in 2007.

2. Assertion: In addition, fracking has also caused great environmental harms.

Reasoning: Judge, with environmental harms being the result of hydraulic fracturing, there is no doubt that fracking is doing harm to our earth and those who live on it (whether it's people or animals, or plants), and clearly judge, these harms of fracking do more harm than good.

Evidence: A study confirms a 2011 series of tremors in Ohio were caused by spent hydraulic-fracturing materials injected deep into the ground. "We conclude that the recent, 2011-2012, earthquakes in Youngstown, Ohio were induced by the fluid injection at Northstar 1 deep injection well due to increased pore pressure along the preexisting faults located close to the wellbore," an article in the most recent Journal of Geophysical Research concludes. A University of Texas at Austin study from last summer found a definitive link between earthquakes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and disposal wells in the Barnett Shale. And an earlier study by scientists at Southern Methodist University (SMU) and UT found links between disposal wells near the DFW airport and induced earthquakes for a series of quakes in 2008 and 2009. The study specifically looked at two injection wells in the area that were built in 2008. Seven weeks later, earthquakes started. "Were the DFW earthquakes natural or triggered by activities associated with natural gas production, most likely saltwater injection to dispose of brines?" the report asked. The study said yes, the correlations are consistent with an induced or triggered source.

3. Assertion: Hydraulic fracturing violates basic human rights.

Reasoning: Many of the human rights laid out internationally are encroached upon by the hydraulic fracturing process. The reason for these encroachments include the harm caused upon the person himself and the contamination of the surrounding environment

Evidence: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, or ICESCR article 7, recognizes the right to safe and healthy working conditions. It States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work which ensure ... safe and healthy working conditions. This is violated by fracking due to the proven adverse effects of silica on the fracking workers. Furthermore, those in other workplaces are endangered as well through water contamination and air contamination. UN Resolution 64/292 states The General Assembly recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights. This is guaranteed to the right to safe drinking water. This is violated by fracking due to known contamination of water with lead, uranium, formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid, and other carcinogens, toxins, and chemicals harmful to our health. The right to a healthy environment is articulated in the Aarhus Convention Preamble, ratified by EU and 45 other states, including the US, every person has the right to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being. Hydraulic fracturing practices compromise the environment and cause conditions injurious to health through contamination of water and air. Fracking further results in the destabilization of shale bedrock, causing earthquakes, degrading the environment even more.

4. Assertion: The current US federal fracking regulations are either nonexistent or full of harmful loopholes, causing all of the harms previously entailed.

Reasoning: A process like fracking, which could have enormous consequences on US citizens and the environment around them requires strong, comprehensive federal control to regulate it. However, currently hydraulic fracturing for gas and oil are exempt from crucial federal regulations and EPA supervision, leaving this responsibility to the states. But the state laws both vary and are too weak to fully regulate the fracking process, leading to loopholes that harm our citizens.

Evidence: Up until 2005, the EPA controlled the fracking process through the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. This law carefully monitored harmful wastes produced by industries including hydraulic fracturing as well as how they were disposed, to prevent groundwater contamination. However, according to the University of Denver Law School's Professor William J. Brady, after the fracking boom in 2005, the National Energy Act gave fracking companies exemption from EPA supervision and regulation. Because of this, now called the Halliburton Loophole,†there is no federal agency that is overseeing and regulating fracking companies. The Halliburton Loophole not only gave the fracking companies exemption from that law, they either exempted these companies or gave them looser regulations from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act, all of these key federal laws. Thus, the regulations were left to the states. The states, said the Center for Constitutional Rights or CCR and David Allen Hines, Pennsylvanian State Administrator, have laws that vary throughout or are too weak to fully cover the fracking process. The CCR analysis found that in Pennsylvania alone, a state with rampant fracking, there were over 1500 unaccounted violations by fracking companies. This is unacceptable and directly harmful to US citizens and the environment. This is an obvious harm of hydraulic fracturing.