Fracking in Iowa

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Fracking in Iowa
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Fracking in Iowa depends on many circumstances, such as: available energy resources, the location of these resources, applicable laws and regulations, politics, and the power of environmental and industry groups. Decisions by policymakers and citizens, including state and local governments and ballot initiatives, affect if and how fracking occurs in a state.

Recent technological advances in oil and gas drilling--horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing or fracking--have created a wealth of opportunities and challenges for states that have fossil fuel reserves that can be accessed through the combination of these two technologies and the industries that support them. The increased use of fracking has been an economic boon for states, not only those with fracking but also those with supporting industries, such as frac sand mining or associated machinery manufacturing.

Those opposed to fracking argue that the potential environmental and human health impacts could be large. Although wells have been fracked for over 65 years in the U.S., concerns have been raised over the ability for federal, state and local regulatory agencies to keep up with the growth and adequately protect the environment and human health. As with any type of energy extraction, either traditional or renewable, there are tradeoffs. Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," is the process of injecting fluid--mostly water and sand but with additional chemicals--into the ground at a high pressure to fracture shale rocks to release the natural gas inside.

For a full explanation of fracking, see "Fracking."

Although fracking does not occur in Iowa, the northeastern part of the state is rich in frac sand, which is a substance used in the fracking process. Consequently, the fracking industry has become interested in establishing frac sand mining operations in the area. Local officials in two counties (Allamakee and Winneshiek), however, have imposed moratoria on frac sand mine operations.[2]

Natural gas use in Iowa

For more information on energy consumption in Iowa, see "Energy policy in Iowa"

In 2011, roughly one-fifth of Iowa’s energy use was for transportation. Nearly one-half of the state’s energy consumption was used in industry. The rest was used mostly in residential and commercial buildings, for heating, cooling, lighting and other functions. Most of the energy used in the state is in the form of coal, followed by natural gas and biomass.[1]

Natural gas heats almost 64 percent of homes in Iowa. Electricity heats 19 percent, followed by liquid petroleum gas at 13.5 percent, other and fuel oil.

Consumption of energy for heating homes in Iowa
Source Iowa 2011 U.S. average 2011
Natural gas 63.8% 49.5%
Fuel oil 0.9% 6.5%
Electricity 18.8% 35.4%
Liquid Petroleum Gases (LPG) 13.5% 5%
Other/none 2.9% 3.6%

In Iowa, several natural gas pipelines cross the state. There are also four natural gas storage fields with a combined capacity of almost 300 billion cubic feet. Natural gas from Canada comes into Iowa by pipeline through Minnesota. Other natural gas comes from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Kansas. Most of the natural gas that comes into Iowa is shipped on to other states. Roughly 75 percent of the natural gas entering Iowa goes on to Illinois. Over 50 percent of natural gas used in Iowa is utilized by the industrial sector.[1]

Where electricity comes from in Iowa[3]
Type Amount generated (MWh) % of state** % of U.S.**
Natural gas-fired 23,000 0.52% 0%
Coal-fired 2,173,000 48.8% 0.13%
Nuclear 440,000 9.88% 0.06%
Hydroelectric 47,000 1.06% 0.01%
Other renewables 1,771,000 39.77% 0.88%
Total net electricity generation 4,453,000 100% 0.11%
**Note: Because the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) does not include all of a states' energy production in these figures, the EIA totals do not equal 100 percent. Instead, we have generated our own percentages.

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