Among The Most Essential Resources To Man

Among The Most Essential Resources To Man 

Energy is among the most essential resources to man. It serves as the platform for industrial operations, transport systems and domestic uses. Historic eras such as the industrial revolution were based on energy. The day to day life would be extremely complex without a reliable supply of energy. In essence, there are two main categories of energy. These categories are the renewable and nonrenewable forms. Renewable energy encompasses those sources which have the capacity to self-replenish. On the other hand, nonrenewable sources of energy are exhaustible (Wiber, 61). This implies that the nonrenewable sources and not extractable beyond the limit.All economies work towards attaining energy independence. This perspective mostly applies to countries which import energy. The United States is not an exception in that it imports crude oil from abroad.

The federal government spends billions of dollars every fiscal year on oil imports. In an attempt to attain energy independence, exploration efforts have been evident across the country. This has led to the development of innovative drilling technology for extracting shale gas. The vast reserves of shale in United States present an excellent stride towards the attainment of energy independence (Fell, 19).This fact notwithstanding, it is vital to note that hydraulic fracturing (the technique for extracting shale gas) has numerous shortcomings. These shortcomings mainly apply to environmental safety. This paper seeks to justify that United States should forego shale gas production in order to mitigate environmental pollution.

Shale Gas and Energy Security

Shale gas is a natural form of energy generated from shale rocks. It is among the most pertinent sources of energy in United States. Although the use of shale gas was not widespread in previous centuries, it is has become a predominant source in recent decades. This is because of the need to decrease reliance on conventional sources of energy such as crude oil and coal. Energy independence is not only a vital economic perspective but also a sensitive political issue. The senate has always put the federal government under pressure in order to invest in attaining energy independence.Currently, the United is about 70% self sufficient in terms of energy supply (Spellman, 52).

The remaining gap can only be filled through imports. Imports account for 60% of total oil consumed in the country. This shows why the federal government spends billions of dollars every year on energy. With the population growing rapidly, the issue of energy security has become increasing pertinent. Energy security encompasses a situation in which a country can cater for its energy needs. This is why the federal government has made substantial investments in the extraction of shale gas.With vast reserves of shale in numerous states, shale gas provides a chance for the country to move towards the attainment of energy security. Through shale gas, the United States can have a steady supply of energy for almost half a century (Richards, 76). This represents the significance of shale gas in terms of energy security. The use of shale gas might also help in conserving other alternative forms of energy such as coal.

The Demerits of Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is the principle technique used in the extraction of natural gas. This also applies to shale gas. The controversy surrounding the extraction of shale gas mainly stems from the use of hydraulic fracturing.  Although this technique helps in extracting high quantities of shale gas, it has numerous environmental implications.

Air Contamination

Air is an inherent component of the environment that facilitates for life. Both animal and plant species are strongly dependent on air quality for survival. Essential natural processes such as photosynthesis have far reaching implications on the entire ecosystems. Without a sufficient supply of air, such processes would not take place. This is a critical platform for imbalances within the ecosystem. According to EPA, up to 8% of methane from hydraulic fracturing effuses into the atmosphere (Navarro, 62).Methane is a dangerous hydrocarbon that substantially undermines air quality. This gas can easily bind atmospheric oxygen. This renders oxygen unavailable for animals and plants. Apart from binding oxygen, this gas breaks down rapidly to form carbon dioxide gas. Carbon dioxide is among the most dangerous greenhouse gases.Although there have been contentions about the actual magnitude of the greenhouse gas footprint, hydraulic fracturing remains a critical contributor to air pollution. Any form of air pollution affects organisms that occupy terrestrial habitats as well as atmospheric habitats (Fell, 79). Consequently, air pollution serves as a massive threat to biodiversity.

Contamination of Groundwater

In addition to air pollution, hydraulic fracturing also contaminates groundwater. The layer containing shale gas occurs deep in the earth’s crust below the water-table. Consequently, it is not possible to avoid the water layer while extracting shale gas from the earth’s crust. Some chemicals like xylene used in the hydraulic fracturing process can easily penetrate into the underground water reserves (Mooney, 84).As with air pollution, the contamination of groundwater affects animal and plant life. Millions of people depend of this underground water for different uses. Continuous contamination through hydraulic fracturing exposes people who live in close proximity to numerous risks.  According to the EPA, there is sufficient evidence that hydraulic fracturing causes substantial contamination of groundwater. There is always the risk of contracting dangerous disease especially for people who live in close proximity (Mooney, 83).

The increase in rates of extraction for shale gas has substantially increased the level of contamination for groundwater. This mostly applies to the states comprising Marcellus formation (Fischetti, 82). Water quality is a pertinent environmental issue with different kinds of implications. In addition to human health, the deterioration of water quality undermines the wellbeing of aquatic organisms. For instance, poor water quality threatens freshwater fish through habitat degradation.  As much as the country requires energy, water is a critical component of almost all aspects of life. Industries require this commodity for production purposes and irrigation schemes would ground to a halt in the absence of reliable water supply (Nash, 57). If the country continues to use hydraulic fracturing in the extraction of shale gas, the total reserves of freshwater will be under a massive threat. It is thus vital to develop other alternatives to hydraulic fracturing in order to safeguard the country’s freshwater resources.

Climate Change

In recent decades, climate change has been among the most predominant environmental issues in all parts of the world. It encompasses the continuous increase in surface temperatures. In essence, the perforation of the ozone layer has been a critical factor behind global warming. Although there are numerous issues that lead to the perforation of the ozone layer, the effect of greenhouse gases is quite predominant. These gases include methane and carbon dioxide. Mining activities such as the extraction of shale have been significant contributors towards the green house gas effect.Hydraulic fracturing leads to the emission of high levels of methane and other dangerous green house gases into the atmosphere. This presents the drilling of shale gas as a sensitive factor that contributes towards climate change (Richards, 67). Due to climate change, human beings face the threat of an increase in the prevalence of cancer. This is because global warming causes the emission of high energy ultraviolet radiations. In addition to threatening human health, the dangerous emissions pose serious threats to biodiversity. With the prevailing rates of global warming, some species face extinction (Navarro, 48). This serves as a massive disadvantage to the environment as well as future generations.

Sustainable Development

This refers to development activities that help in meeting the needs of current generations. Similarly, such activities must not undermine capacity of future generations to meet the same needs. Sustainable development is among the most notable components of the Millennium Development Goals framework. Based on the MDG provisions, countries should promote clean development mechanisms that enhance sustainable development. This underscores the pertinent role of mitigating activities that pose extensive threats to the environment. Future generations are dependent on how the current generations use the available resources. Projections show that the reserves of shale gas in United States are not self replenishing.In the span of fifty years, the current reserves of shale gas are highly likely to be extinct (Richards, 81). The use of hydraulic fracturing in extracting shale gas is thus a form of unsustainable development. It is extremely crucial for federal and state authorities to evaluate alternatives for mining shale gas. Additionally, it is fundamentally essential to develop other forms of energy especially those with minimal environmental consequences (Navarro, 95). This will help the United States conform to the stipulations of sustainable development.

Benefits of hydraulic fracturing

Although hydraulic fracturing has numerous environmental implications, it is essential to highlight its merits. Firstly, this technique has high standards of efficiency while extracting natural gas. Through the use of high pressure, higher volumes of gas can reach the earth’s surface. The second outstanding advantage of hydraulic fracturing is that it will enhance the country’s energy reserves.On an annual basis, United States imports crude oil mainly from Canada. This is despite the country being among the top five producers of crude oil in the globe (Fell, 51). Consequently, hydraulic fracturing will help in minimizing the money spent by the federal government on importing energy. Compared to other techniques of mining natural gas, hydraulic fracturing is extremely cost effective. This is because it has minimal input with high output (Wiber, 72). All these perspectives underline the various advantages of hydraulic fracturing in extracting shale gas from the earth’s surface.


The United States should forego the extraction of shale gas using fracking. Although the country has a substantial energy deficit, drilling for shale gas using hydraulic fracturing is not the solution. This mainly stems from the numerous environmental implications of using hydraulic fracturing. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, up to 8% of methane from hydraulic fracturing effuses into the atmosphere. If the country continues to use hydraulic fracturing in the extraction of shale gas, the total reserves of freshwater will be under a massive threat. It is thus vital to develop other alternatives to fracking in order to safeguard the country’s freshwater resources.


Fell, Hans-Josef. Global cooling: Strategies for climate change. Boca Raton, FL: CRC      Press, 2012

Fischetti, Mark. The drillers are coming. Scientific American, 2010

Mooney, Chris. The truth about fracking. Scientific American, November 2011

Navarro, Gabriel. Marcellus shale and shale gas: Facts and considerations. New York:      Nova Science Publishers, 2011

Richards, Jeremy. Mining: Society and a sustainable world. New York: Springer, 2009

Spellman, Frank. Environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing. Boca Raton, FL: CRC     Press, 2012

Wiber, Tom. Under the surface. Cornell University Press, 2012

Nash, Katelyn. Shale gas development. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2011

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