As any Californian knows, we’ve seen our fair share of earthquakes and water shortages. Yet we still allow fracking, a natural gas and oil extraction method that exacerbates both issues, in our state.
The recent California Public Interest Research Group pledge drive to ban fracking in California opened an important conversation about the issue. Those in opposition argue that natural gas, which is extracted by the fracking process, is more environmentally and economically responsible than other energy sources. However, a fracking ban, combined with large-scale investment in renewable energy sources, is ultimately California’s best option to protect our resources both now and in the future.
At this point, fracking in California is mostly utilized for oil extraction, not for natural gas extraction. Therefore, the benefits of natural gas become irrelevant when discussing the fossil-fuel industry in our state.
Furthermore, multiple studies have started to link earthquake occurrences to water-injection sites. A two-year survey in Texas found that earthquakes occurred near one third of fracking injection sites, and that earthquakes triggered by fracking wells were more common than previously recognized. The highly pressurized water used in fracking is hypothesized to destabilize the ground, especially near fault lines. This is a worrisome discovery when considering the already high frequency of earthquakes in California.
In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency released an intensive study stating that fracking can indeed pollute water at every step of the process, from obtaining and injecting water to collecting and storing the resulting waste.
Even if fracking sites strictly prevented pollution, their operations still waste billions of gallons of water. The water used may come from areas with a healthy water supply, but that does not offset how wasteful the practice is. Many Californians receive their water from water-rich sites via aqueduct. Removing water from these areas to extract oil equates to taking drinking and irrigation water away from other California residents.
We cannot afford to settle or accept “the lesser of two evils” by choosing natural gas, especially because we now have clean and cost-efficient alternatives. According to a 2014 New York Times article, the prices of wind and solar power have officially dipped below those of traditional fossil-fuel sources. As technology progresses, the costs only continue to drop, presenting a valuable opportunity. Instead of arguing that we lack renewable energy infrastructure, let’s build it.
California is already on its way. In 2015, California passed legislation to get our state to use 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. Just last week, California State Senate President Kevin De Leon introduced a bill to move California to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency’s 2016 annual review and the World Resources Institute, building a renewable energy infrastructure on a mass scale will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and prevent future costs from climate change like sea level rise, increased natural disasters, and heat-related illnesses, which will take a toll on our economy. Investing in renewable energy now to limit global warming will save us so much money in the future.
All numbers aside, we need to focus on the larger perspective. CALPIRG’s campaign to ban fracking does not exist because this one industry will be responsible for catastrophic damage. Instead, a fracking ban is one piece of a much larger puzzle. It’s about moving this state, and this country, forward.
Even if the practice of fracking itself had no negative side effects, it still perpetuates our reliance on fossil fuels, and no fuel source that emits carbon dioxide into the air is environmentally responsible.
The use of oil and natural gas may once have been the best option out there, but that argument no longer stands. We have all the tools required to convert our economy to an environmentally friendly one, but it will take widespread support to stand up to an administration determined to industrialize further.
As the future generation, we students have an obligation to make the world a safer, more sustainable place. That’s what CALPIRG is working towards.
Friedl is a second-year geography and environmental studies student and an intern for CALPIRG’s Ban Fracking campaign.