Policypedia/Energy Policy/Fracking

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Learn about fracking policy in your state

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Welcome to Fracking Policy on Policypedia, a featured issue of the Energy Policy Project

An oil derrick, which sits over an oil well to support the equipment used to drill the well or place pipe down the well.[1]
The United States is experiencing an energy boom thanks in large part to "fracking,” the technology also known as hydraulic fracturing, which has enabled the extraction of huge, previously untapped reservoirs of oil and natural gas. In the United States, 95 percent of the natural gas consumed in 2011 was produced domestically. Many believe the technology has revolutionized the energy industry and put the United States on the path to energy independence. The benefits have been felt on many levels and include the revival of depressed economic areas, lower energy prices, increase in manufacturing, especially in the petrochemical and steel industries, and even reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. The risks of fracking, which pumps large amounts of water mixed with chemicals and sand into shale formations, have been raised by environmentalists and focus on water table contamination and depletion, air pollution, methane leaks, earthquakes and landscape despoilment. Consequently some groups and communities are seeking to restrict or ban the process. According to media reports and a new study, most Americans say they do not know anything about fracking and are uncertain whether to support or oppose it.[2] Policypedia will be covering all aspects of this policy issue with a series of informative, understandable articles so readers can make up their own minds.

What is fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is the process of injecting fluid--mostly water and sand (or proppant), but with additional chemicals--into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release the hydrocarbons, including natural gas, inside. The use of hydraulic fracturing in combination with horizontal drilling has led to a boom in natural gas production by making access to the oil and gas in shale formations commercially viable.[3] In some cases, a combination of water, chemicals and sand is injected into horizontally drilled wells at high speeds and pressures until gas begins to flow. Fracking can be done inside traditional vertical wells also. Fracking can also release trapped oil and water, known as produced water.[4]

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