The fracking boom in the USA has received a lot of well founded criticism; it pollutes in just about every conceivable way, and has given rise to dangerous earthquakes in many areas.
In addition to all of of that, fracking is engendering a toxic boom of plastic production. The shale gas bodies that fracking targets are desirable because they host an abundance of methane gas, but it is almost always found mixed with ethane.
That ethane is the building block for many kinds of plastic. With the huge amount of ethane that fracking operations produce, the USA is seeing a influx of what are called “cracking” facilities.
By using steam or heat, the ethane from the fracked gas is “cracked”, and made into plastic pellets.
This process is extremely hazardous to human health, and also creates a source of cheap plastic that is likely to end up in landfills or floating around in giant garbage islands in the ocean. Fracking is one of the worst ideas of recent times, and creates problems that we don’t fully understand the extent of currently.
We know for sure that it pollutes both the water and air, and it looks like it has the ability to destabilize the earth as well.
In Oklahoma the frequency of earthquakes has risen 4000 times since large fracking operations began. Most of that increase happened while Scott Pruitt was working as the Attorney General, and suing the EPA to lower air and water quality standards.
While these are all dreadful problems, it would appear the both fracking and cracking operations are blasting forward in the United States. They are favored by the Trump administration as a source of crude oil, natural gas and mountains of cheap plastic.
Why Cracking Sucks
Cracking adds an extra dimension of toxicity to the already abysmal fracking disaster. In many cases the cracking facilities are built near the fracking sites, and these areas spew deadly carcinogens into the environment at an alarming rate.
People like Scott Pruitt want to be able to release even more toxins into the air we all breathe, based on his track record. That is probably why he is running the EPA for President Trump.
Under President Obama the construction of a gigantic cracking facility was approved near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is expected to spew more than 500 tons of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) into the air, and cause untold horror for anyone who is unlucky enough to live near it.
There are a number of cracking facilities in Louisiana, and they are absolutely horrible for human and animal life in the area. Even under the current environmental laws, these wildly irresponsible cancer factories create misery for the local population. People’s lives are ruined lives by pollution and most have no way out of the situation.
Going forward we have no idea how deeply the regulations are going to be cut into by a malicious corporate state, and the pay-for-play governments they install wherever they can.
In Mossville, LA, the residents are filled with dioxin and wish they could leave. The refining facilities are completely responsible for the suffering of the people, but are not held accountable. Sadly this kind of story is the rule and not the exception. With $170 billion dollars worth of new chemical refining infrastructure coming on-line in the USA, these problems are going to get worse quickly.
Many people in Oklahoma tell similar stories, but also have to contend with earthquakes that level homes and destroy lives. The insurance companies in Oklahoma have stopped paying claims on earthquakes that they believe to be human-made, though the state government won’t acknowledge that fracking is responsible.
One could be forgiven for thinking there was a shortage of plastic. With all the cracking facilities being built, it is safe to assume there is a need for a huge amount of plastic. Sadly, the opposite is true, and this situation represents a huge failure to contain human greed and stupidity.
The amount of plastic in our environment is staggering, and the gyres in the Pacific are going to be huge beneficiaries of this cracking boom. Gyre is another word we use for a “garbage patch” in the open ocean, and it is estimated that by 2050 they will cover a quarter of earth’s surface.
It is not known whether or not those estimates took all of the all of the new cracking facilities into account when the future gyre size was calculated. As it stands currently the gyres are huge, and when we create amazing quantities of extremely cheap plastic it seems inevitable that people will continue to pollute the oceans.
The costs of the eventual clean up of the plastics and related problems are not included in the purchase price of plastic materials. This seems like a major oversight, and it is only one of many in this reprehensible situation.
What many people don’t know is that the fracking and cracking industry is a recipient of huge tax breaks. The new cracking facility in Pittsburgh is unique for a few reasons. Not only is it the first cracking facility of its size to be built outside of the gulf cost in more than 20 years, but it also received the largest tax break in the history of the state of Pennsylvania.
The state decided that all the jobs that this cracking facility would create, first in manufacturing plastic and later in health care, justified giving it $1.65 billion in tax relief over a 25 year period. This kind of practice is commonplace in the fracking industry and subsidies to fracking companies have grown enormously over the last decade.
There is a tendency to blame companies like Shell for building these kind of facilities, but as a Shell spokesperson pointed out, “Shell supports and endorses incentive programmes provided by state and local authorities that improve the business climate for capital investment, economic expansion and job growth. Shell would not have access to these incentive programmes without the support and approval from the representative state and local jurisdictions.”
This is a fair assertion, and we must remember that because a corporation has a duty to make as much profit as possible at all times, if states give them the chance to set up huge a cracking operation on the cheap, they will take it.
Companies like Shell aren’t just running around the world setting up horrible industries for fun. Without the consent and encouragement of the places that host the resources, Shell would spend its time on more constructive projects. They recently won the bid to develop a wind farm off the coast of Holland, and if Pennsylvania had offered them a similar opportunity, they would have taken it.
It is vogue to bash President Trump, and I plan on doing it for as long as I am able to. But I feel that it is important to point out that in reality fracking grew up under President Obama. The subsidies that big fracking operations received during his time in office grew relentlessly. Without all that encouragement we wouldn’t be facing this cracking debacle.
It is very important that we see the US political structure for what it is; a toxic monster that cares nothing for the people no matter what party we are talking about.
Cancers R’ Us
One of the biggest byproducts of fracking and cracking is the destruction of human health. It is a bitter irony that the energy we extract to power our modern lifestyle destroys the society that uses it. When viewed in a holistic sense this system is self-destructive and will lead to an environment that won’t sustain human life.
The dioxin contamination that fracking and cracking create leads to a range of serious medical conditions, cancer being among them. But it’s not only dioxin that these industries contaminate the country with, there are hundreds of known carcinogens that are in involved with these processes.
The impact that this kind of energy mining and refining has is awful. There is no way that profits could ever compensate society for the impact that fracking has, and cracking is equally fruitless. What we should remember is that money is in essence a means of social organization, and if we destroy the society that creates the money’s value, it will be worthless.
We have to encourage the development of technologies that make a society more valuable, and able to create further progress. Technology like fracking leads to burned out earth, sick people and a vicious cycle into worthlessness.
There are other options available, and there is no need to keep on supporting technology that makes us sick. Many places in the world are making changes that benefit both society and the environment. The reality of the situation is that we can’t separate ourselves from our world. We need the earth, to eat, to breathe; to sustain us.
The planet doesn’t need us, but we need it. Let’s make changes and accept the reality of our situation.