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Fracking: A Modern New Gold Rush

Fracking, also know as hydraulic fracturing, is the process of pushing water down into a well to crack a rock containing natural gasses. Why is this important? There are natural gas wells in abundance around the United States that have yet to be tapped.

Hydraulic fracturing is the new gold rush. The companies pay workers a decent wage, which they can make a living off of. This has lead to an expanse of the economy around hydraulic fracturing facilities. During the 2012 United States election, hydraulic fracturing stimulated the economy with cheaper prices on anything made from natural gas.

Within a few years, the United States could become energy self-sufficient, even become a provider of energy around the world. These wells contain more natural fuel than the populace has ever thought possible. With the use of hydraulic fracturing there is no possibility of the United States running dry of natural fuel.

In any system there is a risk of complications. That is also possible in hydraulic fracturing, but the risk is manageable. These problems with hydraulic fracturing are often the case of a protocol or standard not being upheld.

There is a fear of emissions from hydraulic fracturing that could cause problems in the atmosphere, but this has been deemed a negligible element of the operation. With the advent of new technology and advances, the fear of hydraulic fracturing causing problems with the atmosphere is an unlikelihood. In fact, the emissions are only abundant for the first day or two after the deposit has been fractured. The chemicals that are released after the well has been punctured fill the air, release into the atmosphere and provide no further issues. The deposit does not continuously produce these toxic gases.

A more pressing concern is the possibility that hydraulic fracturing could contaminate the water. A hydraulic fracturing site could use up to 8 million gallons of water. The entire industry uses up to one percent of the United States’ water. The toxic water is placed inside a deep injection well. The water is far below Earth’s water table, which means it will never return for another cycle.

Fracking has numerous advantages with minor concerns over technique. As the industry grows, the technology will make up for the short falls of the process. Even in the short term, hydraulic fracturing is a necessary process to acquire natural fuels.

Nuclear Energy

Nuclear Energy

For many people, when they hear someone say nuclear power, they picture nuclear bombs going off and all of the destruction that follows it. However, nuclear power is far less dangerous than many people believe. In fact, it is very similar to power plants fueled by coal. Nuclear power plants function the same way that a coal burning power plant functions. They both heat water, which then produces steam that turns a turbine generator. The only real difference between the two power plants is their water heating process.

History of Nuclear Power

In 1942, Enrico Fermi was able to conduct a safe nuclear chain reaction. It was conducted in a demonstration reactor that was called Chicago Pile 1. In 1947, the Atomic Energy Commission, or AEC, began to investigate atomic energy to see if there would be use for it in times of peace. The first experimental nuclear reactor produced energy in 1951. It was enough energy to power 4 light bulbs. 4 years later in 1955 the AEC started a program to fund nuclear power plants. Then, in 1956, the very first nuclear power station was constructed. The stations name was Calder Hall Power station, and it was built on the coast of Cumberlands.

Then in 1956, the first large-scale nuclear power plant became operational. By 1973 there were 41 nuclear power plants. Today there are more than 100 nuclear power plants in the USA alone. The United States produces more than 30% of the total nuclear energy on the planet. However, this may all be changing soon.

Future of Nuclear Power

Due to the Fukushima accident in Japan, the increased cost of nuclear power could lead to the removal of use of nuclear power in the USA. The USA is authorizing new safety regulations and considering even more due to the disaster. If more regulations are enacted, then nuclear power may no longer be cost efficient.

The government support of nuclear power has begun to diminish, and currently disaster insurance for nuclear power plants in the USA makes it very cost inefficient to operate a plant. This is all occurring as a result of the Fukushima partial meltdown. The problem is that this would lead to more coal power plants, which are far more dangerous that nuclear power plants overtime. In fact, coal pollution kills many more people than nuclear power ever has. Overall, nuclear power is a very effective, and previously cost efficient, method of generating energy.

The Cost of “Green Energy”

In the ongoing debate between renewable energy sources and fossil fuel, many issues are at stake. Powering our economies, while keeping energy prices down is a multi-faceted task. For most, the use of fossil fuel is a mindless habit. It is always there, always works and is very effective in running the world. Oil, natural gas and coal are versatile, requiring little thought for the average consumer. Delving into the realm of renewable energy can be expensive and difficult. Deciding if the benefits of green technology outweigh the effectiveness of fossil fuels, is a worldwide daily struggle.

The most plentiful fossil fuel is coal. As well as being abundant, it is used as a liquid, gas or solid and is less expensive to produce than natural gas or oil. From an environmental standpoint, coal is one of the worst ways to supply our energy needs. Fumes and sludge from coal-fired power plants and mining used to pull it from the ground; all have a negative impact on the environment. The use of oil for heating and fueling vehicles make it an easily recognizable source of energy. While conveniently transported in tankers or via pipelines, the supply of oil is diminishing in conjunction with the world’s increasing energy requirements. Cleaner burning natural gas is used for many needs including heat, electricity and transportation, and while widely available, it does contribute to air pollution and is not a renewable form of energy.Many options exist in the form of renewable energy, but for the most part without a government subsidy these options are completely unsustainable. Solar power is limited to sunny days and is not cost effective. Grease & used cooking oil from restaurants can be processed into biofuel. Production is expensive and can take up large amounts of heat and quantities of water. The process of turning grease trap waste or used cooking oil into biofuel requires so much real energy that it is unsustainable without government subsidies. Wind energy, while available in most places, can come and go with the weather, and the amount of space required for wind plants and costs of installation are deterrents to this option.

Costs and efficiency all need to be considered when comparing fossil fuel and renewable energy.