Economy vs. Environment

Hydro Fracking

Not only has oil brought economic prosperity to Texas and the United States, it has shaped the way people function in their day-to-day lives and serves as a focal point around which society revolves.

As the population rises and cities grow at unprecedented rates, the need for oil is becoming increasingly essential. However, as the demand for oil continues to go up, its supply is dwindling. Many solutions have been proposed to supplement this shortage. They range from the importation of foreign oil and utilization of off shore drilling in nature reserves to initiatives in alternative renewable resources. One approach to satiating America’s hunger for oil, which has led to a storm of controversy in South Central Texas, is fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is the use of drills to crack open porous rock that is filled with oil. Just like previous oil booms, fracking has brought with it job growth and economic prosperity for surrounding “oil towns.”

In a study conducted by the UTSA Center for Community and Business Research, it was estimated that nearly 25 million dollars in revenue was generated for the regions surrounding Eagle Ford Shale. The report also stated that, because of the Eagle Ford Shale boom, 257 million dollars was generated for local government revenue, 47,000 full-time jobs were created, and it is estimated that 117,000 total jobs will have been created by 2021.

According to Gilbert Gonzalez, the Director of Small Business and Development Center, “The Eagle Ford Shale oil and gas is one of the most significant oil and gas finds in Texas history, and it has attracted an influx of transient and permanent workers from across Texas and the Nation.”

Better economics and job creation are not without their externalities. In an article published by the environmental group, Greenpeace, the dangers present in fracking fields include leaks, spills, explosions and environmental dangers, as well as injury and death to field employees. This poses considerable risk when it is taken into account that shale provides a quarter of all U.S. natural gas by supplying more than five trillion cubic feet of natural gas the United States.

The Marcellus Shale organization, one of the largest fracking firms in the U.S., has incited considerable anger in the Pennsylvania residents living near the oil field. Several lawsuits have even been filed against the company that claims Marcellus Shale has contaminated their water supply for both domestic and agricultural use.  Many South Central Texas residents worry that their fate will be the same.

For groups against fracking, such as Greenpeace, they argue that oil is only a short-term solution for a long-term energy problem. Alternatives to oil consumption include ethanol, hydroelectric power, wind energy and solar energy to name a few. However, these alternative energy sources are often costly and in the infancy of their development.

The debate on whether fracking is advantageous has been extensive. On one side, a strong argument that looks at the opportunity for job creation and economic growth. On the other side, an equally strong argument that calls attention to the environmental degradation associated with fracking and argues for reduction of oil use entirely.