Critical Analysis of Fracking

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Section I – Critical Analysis

Problem
The United States is facing an energy crisis. Dependence on foreign oil has led to geopolitical conflict, and global fossil fuel consumption is damaging the environment at an alarming rate. Add to this an exploding world population, and it is clear that the US needs to find an alternative source of energy.

Question
Can the natural gas deposits in the Marcellus Formation, extracted through fracking, be the solution to the United States’ energy problem?

Purpose
The purpose of this analysis is to examine the process of extracting natural gas in shale deposits—Horizontal High Volume Slickwater Hydraulic Fracturing, or “Fracking”—and determine the long-term viability of this process.
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The pressurized mixture causes the shale to crack, releasing natural gas and allowing it to flow up the well.

It just so happens that Mount Pleasant, PA sits right on top of one of the richest regions of natural gas shale in the world: The Marcellus Formation.

Scientists have known about the Marcellus Formation for decades. But it wasn’t until 2008, that Terry Engelder—Penn State University Professor of Geology—discovered the Marcellus Formation contains enough natural gas to supply the US for the next 14 years! Upon learning of the discovery, government and industry officials alike praised fracking as a “silver bullet” for America’s energy woes.

Less than a year later, Range Resources began their fracking operation in Mount Pleasant.

Companies like Range Resources have set up hundreds of fracking wells in towns like Mount Pleasant, PA. And business is booming. A study released by Penn State showed that during 2010, Pennsylvania natural gas development generated $11.2 Billion in regional GDP, and supported nearly 140,000 jobs. The same study predicted that by 2020, those numbers would almost double.5

But, many argue that fracking causes more harm than good.

In March, 2011, three professors from Cornell University released a study examining the environmental impacts of fracking. Their analysis showed that natural gas extraction
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