The Biggest Misconception in American History

Recycling, most renownly recognized by the 3 R’s of reduced, reuse, recycle, is a process of converting waste materials into new, usable products. Not only do we think about recycling as a beneficiary by its removing waste products from landfills, but it has shown signs of reducing air pollution and water pollution. Although recycling may be considered a crucial element to society, critics have recently shown that recycling is economically flawed and produces even greater levels of pollution than its original waste product.

Picture1

Figure 1 [14]

Reduce Reuse Recycling Diagram

Section I. History

Before we examine this controversy, lets focus on some background information of recycling. Recycling’s origin began around the year 400 with Plato, by following a very basic system [1]. The process focused on taking household materials such as ash, broken tools, and pottery, eventually being broken down into smaller components and converted into other products. As time evolved into the pre-industrial era, the methods by which people focused on recycling became more elaborate with greater participation. Greater technology yielded greater recycling, as the Japanese illustrated the art of repulped paper and selling the recycled product in 1031. Recycling also was used for home essentials, as the Britain’s used ash and coal as a basis to create bricks. On a more localized level, recycling was extremely important during times of war in the United States. During WWII, almost every sort of metal seemed to be melted down for artillery, as well as taking kitchen oils, fats, and other ingredients for artillery lubrication. Here are some early recycling advertisement photos during WWII:

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Figure 2                                                                                             Figure 3

Recycling During WWII for Scrap Metal                       Recycling During WWII Oils

                                                    and Fats for explosives

 

Section II. Modern Uses

Now that we have examined the history, lets look at the modern uses and process before we focus on the controversies. Recycling occurs worldwide, reusing materials such as glass, paper, metal, plastic, textiles, and electronics. These materials can be recycled via a collection center, or curbside, where facilities further sort, clean, and reprocess the materials into something new and reusable. Curbside collection focuses on homeowners putting recycled materials into designated containers, which will then be picked up by a waste collection vehicle. Depending on the facility, the material is then sorted in a variety of ways depending on the technology, and then the materials are negotiated to buy-back centers which turn the processed material into a new recycled material. If you would like to see a more in depth video about curbside collection recycling, click here. The other type of recycling, known as drop-off centers, focuses on the waste producer to transport the recycled materials to a central location to be processed. Since this is more work for homeowners, it is less popular than curbside collection, which does not require any work from the homeowner. Below are images of the types of recycling:

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Figure 4                                                                             Figure 5

Collection Center In Missouri                              Curbside Collection In Vermont

 

Section III. Is Recycling Economically Flawed?

When it comes to any side of the argument, there are two basic sides: Side of For & Side of Against. In this case, there are pro-recycling and anti-recycling. When it comes to the perspective of the pro-recycling, they focus on the mindset that it takes the items out of the dump, therefore helping the environment. However, on the minority side, the anti-recycling group claims that recycling is economically flawed and produces more of a cost then a benefit. Due to this controversy, let’s focus on some quantitative data to determine which side is correct.

A. Pro Recycling

The perspective of pro-recycling focuses primarily on the issue of major involvement and recycling’s ability to keep the waste product out of landfills. Figure 5 below focuses on the percentages in million tons of recycling products between the years of 1960 and 2012. As you can see, the data is pretty clear that there is a major involvement in terms of people’s willingness to recycle, as the percentage of total recycling grew from 5.6% to 86.6% over the past 52 years.

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Figure 6 [9]

EPA released recycling rates over 50 years

  Another piece of data that seems to clarify this claim is from Clark University. It was published in the 1990’s as an article showing the percentage of recycling by country. Here is an image from this article:

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Figure 7 [10]

Clark University World Recycling Percentage

As you can see from figure 7, every country seems to have some sort of involvement into recycling. Keep in mind that this source is from the 1990’s, and as we saw figure 6, recycling has increased dramatically. Because of this, we can viably make the conclusion that these countries color’s presently would be more yellow-greenish color, presenting the idea that nations as a whole are recycling more than 27% of their products.

Another argument that the pro-recycling group focuses on is keeping the waste product out of landfills. Let’s examine this by looking at the electronic waste diagram below:

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Figure 8 [11]

Electronicstakeback released source of Recycling Electronics

                  When examining figure 8, which focuses on the amount of generated electronic waste over the last decade, it is clear that we have generated a much greater amount of electronic waste. However, what is clear from this data is that there has been a gradual decrease from the years 2010 to 2013 in terms of e-waste trashed even when the total e-waste increases and plateaus, showing that we are keeping more of these products out of landfills. Once again, similar to figure 6, we can see that from the last piece of data in this diagram that we are further differentiating the amount of products being recycled, as well as the rate at which the products are being recycled (going from 10% to 40.4%).

As we can see from these three pieces of data, the main arguments of the pro-side seems to be viable. Not only does it show that there is a greater involvement of people participating in recycling, but it also is resulting in a decrease of these items ending up in landfills

B. Anti Recycling

The side of Anti-recycling has only one major argument, the economics, particularly the idea that it takes more money to recycle the product than produce the real product. Because of this narrower argument, there are fewer sources to judge this argument. However, these fewer sources reveal crucial information that portray the idea that recycling could be the biggest misconception in American History.

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Figure 9 [12]

Department of Sanitation Refuse vs. Recycling

 

One of the key pieces of information comes from the Department of Sanitation in New York City, as shown above. This diagram is comparing and contrasting the economic costs of throwing the item away, referred to as refuse from this diagram, or recycle the product. When looking at the conclusion of the collection section, which takes into account the cost of transportation and paying workers, it costs 186% more to recycle products than to refuse the products completely. Although it may cost more in total, you must take into account the fact that there was almost four times as much refused product as there was recycled product.

Discovery Magazine provides a similar thought about recycling’s flaws. “Recycling is generally far better than sending waste to landfills and relying on new raw materials to drive the consumer economy. It takes two-thirds less energy to make products from recycled plastic than from virgin plastic. By the last official measure in 2005, Americans recycle an estimated 32 percent of their total waste, which averages nearly a ton per person per year, around a third of which is plastic. Our recycling efforts save the greenhouse gas equivalent of removing 39.6 million cars from the road [3].” When looking at this article solely in terms of energy, one would simply realize that to throw away a product requires less energy than to run it through conveyer belt and recycle it to its proper location, only to use more energy to either heat it and or clean it to create a new product.

When looking at the energy costs of recycling, the video below seems to provide some alarming facts.

Figure 10

Energy Costs Of Recycling

 

Let’s focus on some of the main points of the documentary. The first point would be looking at if recycling saves energy. According to the video, it is clear that recycling is flawed, as it says, “Does recycling save energy? No, because it increases energy use in transport, sorting, storing, and cleaning.” By creating more steps of transport, we are creating more air pollution. Similarly, by using more materials such as water to clean the recycled materials, we are creating more water pollution. On another note, the video also raises questions about the monetary costs between dumping and going through the recycling process. One researcher from this film concluded that, “It costs about $50 to $60 dollars a ton to take the trash to the landfill, whereas it costs between $150 to $160 to recycle the materials.” Does that sound worth it?

As we can see from the documentary, one may be skeptical to recycle, so let’s look into the potential side effects if one recycles to further prove this side of the recycling argument. Alexander Volokh (photo below), a consumer research from Emory University, provides an explanation to why these items really are not recycled based on their potentials.

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Figure 11 [13]                                                                                                                                                                   Figure 12

Alexander Volokh, Emory University Researcher                                                                                      Andrew Volokh Research On Potentials of Recycling

When looking at figure 12, keep in mind that Volokh focuses on the theoretical potentials of recycling certain products. As you can see, it seems like the majority of items that end up in landfills can be recycled, its just the costs and risks are an issue. As we can see from the chart, items such as glass, paper, and plastic have such high negative potentials with a much smaller upside. Why would somebody try to recycle glass at a $4 gain with a chance to lose more than 29 times that?

In terms of looking at costs and benefits, one valuable source would be people who actually are involved in the recycling process. Let’s look at a reasonably sized Waste Management Facility of Dunmore PA, which is a single stream system of recycling, meaning it sorts through and decides if the materials can be recycled or placed in landfills. One of the managers at the facility said, “Some materials such as glass are useless to recycle because creating new glass is cheaper than recycling it.” When looking at a Waste management facility, it is important to recognize that this establishment is used solely for the purpose of creating profit: by not only using workers from the penitentiary so they can pay the workers 20 to 30 cents an hour, but to only recycle and resell items that create profit. When items such as glass and certain plastics are refused rather than being recycled at a facility where its job it to recycle, it certainly raises questions about recycling’s validity.

Section IV: The Conclusion & Solution

Recycling seems to be the biggest misconception in American history. As we can see from multiple sources, many of the items that are in landfills can be recycled, it is just the fact that business do not want to recycle them because they will not generate greater profits for either the recycling plant or the company using the recycled materials to create new products. Instead, what can be done to turn this misconception into something beneficial is the idea that businesses should recycle all materials regardless of margins, and resell them to businesses. Businesses would slightly mark up the prices of the materials, or, it that is such a big concern, charge the same price and make slightly less margins. Although charging the same amount decreases profit, it more importantly decreases society’s material waste footprint in landfills across the world.

As we can see from a glance, recycling does have its issue, some much greater to the untrained eye. But now with this amount of information, the next question being asked is what can we do to fix this? One of the biggest issues seen as a college student is the background information we are taught about recycling. Essentially, students are told recycling is good, given no sources and or statistics. Instead, students should be given the information and determine if they think this process is good or bad. On another note, one should also look into how they can reduce their material waste footprint. According to earthday.org, they define ecological footprint as, “How much biologically productive land and sea is used by a given population or activity, and compares this to how much land and sea is available for human demands for food, fiber, timber, energy, and space for infrastructure” [5]. This may seem like a daunting task, but it can start with something small, such as bringing a reusable bag at the grocery store. In fact, ABC news points out the idea that by using a recyclable bag, some grocery stores give five to ten cents back for each used reused bag [6]. On a larger scale, companies or stores can look at rethinkrecycling’s website, which provides helpful suggestions to reduce one’s footprint such as composting food after a staff meeting, or go electric with mailing things as opposed to receiving physical copies of mail [7].

Like anything in society, business and processes have their positives and negatives. It is extremely important to note that recycling is not purely good or purely bad. Although the information provided above primarily sides with the idea recycling is bad, recycling does promote jobs and helped jumpstart the economy to a degree after the recession. However, it is important to not take anything said for granted or as fact, as the data above clearly shows that recycling is a more complex issue than first thought.

 

Citations:

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recycling

[2] http://www.usapropaganda.com/propaganda-world-war-ii-posters/world-war-ii-posters/006-large.jpg

[3] http://discovermagazine.com/2009/jul-aug/06-when-recycling-is-bad-for-the-environment

[4]http://volokh.com/sasha/consres.html?referer=https%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com%2Fscholar%3Fhl%3Den%26q%3Drecycling%2Bbad%26btnG%3D%26as_sdt%3D1%252C39%26as_sdtp%3D

[5] http://www.earthday.org/footprintfaq

[6] http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=3609688&page=1

[7] http://www.rethinkrecycling.com/residents/reduce/top-10-ways-reduce-waste

[8] http://www.biomasspackaging.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/education-iStock_000007079127Large.jpg

[9] http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/refuseandrecycle.pdf

[10] https://ds.lclark.edu/sge/wp-content/uploads/sites/121/2012/09/GISLab13.png

[11] http://www.electronicstakeback.com/wp-content/uploads/ewaste-bar-chart-5.1.jpg

[12] http://www.ibo.nyc.ny.us/iboreports/refuseandrecycle.pdf

[13] http://law.emory.edu/_includes/images/sections/faculty-and-scholarship/faculty-high-res/volokh-highres.jpg

[14]https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/management/research/units/clms/images/copy2_of_copy_of_Recyclelogo.jpg/image_preview

 

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Blog 2 Revised

 

The Biggest Misconception in American History

Recycling, most renownly recognized by the 3 R’s of reduced, reuse, recycle, is a process of converting waste materials into new, usable products. Not only do we think about recycling as a beneficiary by its removing waste products from landfills, but it also has shown signs of reducing air pollution and water pollution. Although recycling may be considered a crucial element to society, critics have recently shown that recycling is economically flawed and produces even greater levels of pollution than its original waste product.

Before we tie into the controversy of recycling, lets focus on some background information to gain a better perspective on the major issue. Recycling originated as far back as Plato in 400 BC [1]. There were sightings that household materials such as ash, broken tools, and pottery were being converted into other products. As time evolved into the pre-industrial era, there were signs that metals from Europe were melted and reused. With further technology came further recycling, with paper being recycling in 1031 by the Japanese selling repulped paper, as well as Britain’s using ash and coal as a basis to create bricks. However, recycling was extremely important during times of war. During WWII, almost every sort of metal seemed to be melted down for artillery, as well as taking kitchen oils, fats, and other ingredients for artillery lubrication. Here are some early recycling advertisement photos:

2        [2]          Picture1

 

Now that we have examined the history, lets look at the modern uses and process before we focus on the controversies. Recycling occurs worldwide, reusing materials such as glass, paper, metal, plastic, textiles, and electronics. These materials can be recycled via a collection center, or curbside, where facilities further sort, clean, and reprocess the materials into something new and reusable. Curbside collection focuses on homeowners putting recycled materials into designated containers, which will then be picked up by a waste collection vehicle. Depending on the facility, the material is then sorted in a variety of ways depending on the technology, and then the materials are negotiated to buy-back centers which turn the processed material into a new recycled material. If you would like to see a more in depth video about curbside collection recycling, click here. The other type of recycling, known as drop-off centers, focuses on the waste producer to transport the recycled materials to a central location to be processed. Since this is more work for homeowners, it is less popular than curbside collection, which does not require any work from the homeowner. These types of recycling seem to be a lot of work. This is true, as the National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA), reported in May 2015, that recycling and waste has employed 14,000 people through the recycling process. Here are images of each:

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Now with a good amount of background information, less look at the debate of recycling. Critics have recently shown that recycling is economically flawed and produces even greater levels of pollution than its original waste product. But from the majority of articles that provide quantitative data, they say that recycling it a true benefit, but does not really provide any quantitative data. One resource that did provide quantitative data in a positive fashion was Discovery Magazine, which points out the following: “Recycling is generally far better than sending waste to landfills and relying on new raw materials to drive the consumer economy. It takes two-thirds less energy to make products from recycled plastic than from virgin plastic. By the last official measure in 2005, Americans recycle an estimated 32 percent of their total waste, which averages nearly a ton per person per year, around a third of which is plastic. Our recycling efforts save the greenhouse gas equivalent of removing 39.6 million cars from the road [3].” However, as this article continues, it points out that a variety of plastics cannot be recycled, ending up in landfills and just skipping the recycling process completely. As the article concludes, it determines that it is best to recycle, but make sure you purchase products that can be recycled.

But, the truth is, after scientific studies from people such as Alexander Volokh, a consumer research, he provides an explanation to why these items really are not recycled.

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As you can see, it seems like the majority of items that end up in landfills can be recycled, its just the costs and risks are an issue. This idea seems to correlate with a trip to the Waste Management Facility of Dunmore PA, which is a single stream system of recycling, meaning it sorts through and decides if the materials can be recycled or placed in landfills. One of the managers at the facility said, “Some materials such as glass are useless to recycle because creating new glass is cheaper than recycling it.” This idea seems to examine the environmental issues in regards to potential business practices. When looking at a Waste management facility, it is important to recognize that this establishment is used solely for the purpose of creating profit: by not only using workers from the penitentiary so they can pay the workers 20 to 30 cents an hour, but to only recycle and resell items that create profit. When going to this plant, it is important to see that materials that do not provide profit are thrown in landfills, further creating problems such as polluting drinking water and taking up space that can be used for home or commercial development.

However, why recycling is the biggest misconception in American history is the fact that the majority of items that are in landfills can be recycled, it is just the fact that business do not want to recycle them because they will not generate greater profits for either the recycling plant or the company using the recycled materials to create new products. Instead, what can be done to turn this misconception into something beneficial is the idea that businesses should recycle all materials regardless of margins, and resell them to businesses. Businesses would slightly mark up the prices of the materials, or, it that is such a big concern, charge the same price and make slightly less margins. Although charging the same amount decreases profit, it more importantly decreases society’s material waste footprint in landfills across the world.

Furthermore, the recycling process uses more energy that putting items directly in landfills. Watch this clip below:

When looking at the energy costs, the documentary says that, “Does recycling save energy? No, because it increases energy use in transport, sorting, storing, and cleaning.” By creating more steps of transport, we are creating more air pollution. Similarly, by using more materials such as water to clean the recycled materials, we are creating more water pollution.  Furthermore, as the video continues, it puts monetary values about the costs between dumping waste directly into landfills and taking the waste through the recycling process. One researcher from this film concluded that, “It costs about $50 to $60 dollars a ton to take the trash to the landfill, whereas it costs between $150 to $160 to recycle the materials.” Does that sound worth it?

As we can see from a glance, recycling does have its issue, some much greater to the untrained eye. But now with this amount of information, the next question being asked is what can we do to fix this? One of the biggest issues seen as a college student is the background information we are taught about recycling. Essentially, students are told recycling is good, given no sources and or statistics. Instead, students should be given the information and determine if they think this process is good or bad. On another note, one should also look into how they can reduce their material waste footprint. According to earthday.org, they define ecological footprint as, “How much biologically productive land and sea is used by a given population or activity, and compares this to how much land and sea is available for human demands for food, fiber, timber, energy, and space for infrastructure” [5]. This may seem like a daunting task, but it can start with something small, such as bringing a reusable bag at the grocery store. In fact, ABC news points out the idea that by using a recyclable bag, some grocery stores give five to ten cents back for each used reused bag [6]. On a larger scale, companies or stores can look at rethinkrecycling’s website, which provides helpful suggestions to reduce one’s footprint such as composting food after a staff meeting, or go electric with mailing things as opposed to receiving physical copies of mail [7].

Like anything in society, business and processes have their positives and negatives. It is extremely important to note that recycling is not purely good or purely bad. Although the information provided above primarily sides with the idea recycling is bad, recycling does promote jobs and helped jumpstart the economy to a degree after the recession. However, it is important to not take anything said for granted or as fact, as the data above clearly shows that recycling is a more complex issue than first thought.

 

Citations:

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recycling

[2] http://www.usapropaganda.com/propaganda-world-war-ii-posters/world-war-ii-posters/006-large.jpg

[3] http://discovermagazine.com/2009/jul-aug/06-when-recycling-is-bad-for-the-environment

[4]http://volokh.com/sasha/consres.html?referer=https%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com%2Fscholar%3Fhl%3Den%26q%3Drecycling%2Bbad%26btnG%3D%26as_sdt%3D1%252C39%26as_sdtp%3D

[5] http://www.earthday.org/footprintfaq

[6] http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=3609688&page=1

[7] http://www.rethinkrecycling.com/residents/reduce/top-10-ways-reduce-waste

[8] http://www.biomasspackaging.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/education-iStock_000007079127Large.jpg

Hydro-fracking: Environmental Destruction or Fuel Beneficiary?

        1 [1]

          What originated a matter of 65 years ago during the petroleum industry is now ruining wells around the world. As it started to be a minor source of fuel generation, it became one of the most popular methods for fuel generation, but now created an environmental worldwide debate.

Fracking, also known as the process of drilling down into layers of the earth while simultaneously releasing water at a high pressure, it’s goal to reach a series of rock and then be injected with a mixture of chemicals, water, and sand to create a gaseous mixture [1]. When looking at this from the perspective of it’s benefits, particularly being natural gas, which is a necessary commodity to the majority of households, power plants, and the basis of many objects we use today, fracking is a necessity. But from perspectives of environmentalists, the destruction fracking does to the ground outweighs these tremendous benefits.

One of the first questions about this booming industry focuses on why the United States is involved. From a governmental standpoint, the U.S. has relied on foreign oil, and with relations between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the United States at times becoming thin, this 1st world country must find a different form of energy. Here is a video from a news source going further into the relationship between OPEC and the United States fracking processes.

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            Let’s begin by looking at the benefits of the fracking. The greatest benefit from an economic perspective is the price of natural gas.

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Looking at this graph below, you can clearly see due to the so called “Fracking Revolution,” natural gas prices have dropped 47% compared to years prior to 2013. Similarly, energy consumers see economic benefit, as gas bills have fallen $13 billion between the years 2007 and 2013 due to fracking. From a geographic perspective, the West South Central region and East North Central region, which includes states such as Arkansas, Lousiana, and Oklahoma as well as Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio respectively have seen upwards of over $200 per person in benefits. Essentially, if you are looking at the potential of the technology, it is widespread and already adapted, and has shown substantial returns in terms of energy and economic benefit. Yet, this does not address the health and environmental aspects.

Now with all of these benefits, this process seems like it should be widespread right? No, not so correct. When looking at fracking from a more environmental and resource conscious perspective, fracking takes up massive amounts of precious resources, take for instance the most important resource to humans, water. A study from Duke University determined that, “Energy companies used nearly 250 billion gallons of water to extract shale gas and oil from hydraulically fractured wells in the U.S. between 2005 and 2014, a new study finds. [4] During the same period, the fracked wells generated about 210 billion gallons of wastewater.” Now, if you refer this back to an economic perspective, not only are you transporting massive amounts of water to run these machines, but you are wasting gas from the trucks to transport the water.

Another concern about the production of something is its “clean energy,” also known as the production of something that releases nothing toxic and or containing no harmful byproduct. Some studies, including the documentary Gasland, highlight the environmental effects and aftermath these products provide. Below is a segment of the documentary focusing on the aftermaths of one home in Colorado:

4[5]

As you can see, there is at least some sort of environmental issues about fracking. Not only does the water look unclear, the chemical breakdown after examination found that this water was filled with bacteria infested species, clearly violating “clean energy” and showing major signs of concern. Furthermore, what makes many question the fracking industry are that the companies being non-complaint. Although professionals from these companies come to test the water, they do not provide an accurate judgment about the conditions they are living in. From the video above, your heard the women even say that the companies come but essentially lie to the homeowners faces. Moreover, as opposed to looking at the lives these companies are affecting, they seem to direct their attention more towards the economic upside of the potential customers they can reach if they put all their staff towards buying or signing deals with other properties to frack on.

A recent scientific study titled, “The Environmental Costs and Benefits of Fracking,” looked more in depth into this video as well as the general process of fracking. The article stated that, “Primary threats to water resources include surface spills, wastewater disposal, and drinking-water contamination through poor well integrity. An increase in volatile organic compounds and air toxics locally are potential health threats, but the switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation will reduce sulfur, nitrogen, mercury and particulate air pollution.” As the article continues, it focuses on more hazards, saying that over 36% of the underground water in the United States, which could potentially be used for important aspects of life such as drinking and agriculture, can be ruined if fracking continues for another 5 years.

Focusing on the United States may be something too hard to imagine, so let’s go to scale with a local area in Philadelphia. According to the Council of the City of Philadelphia, there have been major problems with the contamination due to fracking, leading to Department of Environmental Protection and the Delaware River Basin Commission to ensure the health and safety of the regions drinking water [7]. Comparing the amount of illnesses in a more localized area, which from Philadelphia was recorded to be over 300 people, on a large scale can be affecting millions of people. Another article, titled “The Health Implications of Fracking” explains some of the reasons why the United States issues have spread nationwide. Specifically, failure of structural integrity of cements and casing, surface spills, leakage from above-ground storage, as well as the structural integrity of heavy transport vehicles are viable causes for the problems occurring. However, there should be no major blame on the leaking and the surface spills, as regardless of the health implications from the contamination coming up from the ground, fracking is causing this pollution of the water which eventually leads to these issues. This means that in theory, by eliminating fracking, the United States water pollution and eventually health issues should decrease.

One of the most shocking studies that you see below is comparing Estrogen and Androgen in contents of soil and water samples for regions where fracking has occurred versus regions that have not. As you can see from the image below, the amount of combined estimated marginal means of estrogenic, antiestrogenic, and antiandrogenic activities are much higher at the ground water level versus the surface level. Furthermore, based on this data, it is a reasonable consumption that the ground water could have been affected solely by fracking, creating these massive fluctuations of these chemicals. And because of these imbalances of these chemicals, the water can have discolorations and lead to future illnesses and hospitalities of people worldwide.

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Now, looking at one study is not sufficient, as people for fracking might say this is a correlation causation trap, as these graphs can represented above could be media outlets misrepresent correlations. [12] However, many sources agree that fracking is a major health concern. Because of this, lets look at some other studies and focus on their similarities. A journal article, titled, “Human and Ecological Risk Assessment,” focused on potential health impacts of oil and gas drilling. This peer reviewed piece examined the chemicals used during drilling and the hydro-fracking process, and determined that 632 chemicals (a list unavailable due to trade secrecy exemptions) were identified during these processes. Furthermore, even more shocking was that 75% of those 632 chemicals have shown signs to harm skin, eyes, the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. On top of those staggering statistics was that 40–50% of those chemicals could also affect the following: “brain/nervous system, immune and cardiovascular systems, and the kidneys; 37% could affect the endocrine system; and 25% could cause cancer and mutations.” And if these numbers are extreme, examine this graph below, which was conducted by biological diversity, one of the top research institutions and belongs to a refutable company of Taylor & Francis Group. This graph also took more than 300 samples of hydro-fracking chemicals, showing the overall effects these chemicals have.

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As you can clearly see, more than one study shows that there are possible health risks involving hydro-fracking. And although the statistics may not be the same numbers in terms of percentage risk for a particular body part or organ, they do show a general trend that drilling and hydro-fracking pose major threats to our health.

Beyond the health risks can be permanent environmental risks, something much more dramatic. As you will see in this BBC video below, one theory suggested that a recent earthquake could have been caused by fracking.

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[9]

Now, if this theory is correct, think about the potential devastations of fracking. The United Kingdom has just begun its fracking boom, so for countries such as the United States, there could be almost immediate potential disasters on a larger scale. With every risk comes a reward, but with a risk not only health wise, but environmental destruction wise may be a good reason to shut down fracking.

Now, in terms of future fracking endeavors, there has been some speculation in terms of what agencies are upholding fracking and how successfully are they thus far. Supposedly, the United States Congress urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to do a well in depth study on hydraulic fracking and its effects on the ground water. The U.S. Congress outlines on its government website that it wants the EPA to, “assess the potential for hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas to change the quality or quantity of drinking water resources, and identifies factors affecting the frequency or severity of any potential changes. This report can be used by federal, tribal, state, and local officials; industry; and the public to better understand and address any vulnerabilities of drinking water resources to hydraulic fracturing activities” [11]. However, there has been much speculation about this topic, including the EPA’s ability to run an in depth investigation, as plenty of new states and regions, such as Wyoming, have emerged and openly stated there has been a major environmental issue in their state due to fracking [12]. If you would like to watch a video on this topic, click here.

As you watch the video, be in mind that this is an investigation of many, something that isn’t new to the EPA. Tying back to earlier in this discussion, the Gasland documentary has protested and attempts the United States government to run its own 3rd party investigation in an attempt to put this debate to rest, and if there is a problem (which seems like there is), then there should be some immediate solution. Although these smaller population states such as Wyoming and Illinois may need fracking to produce jobs and economic stability, it should not come at the cost of environmental destruction.

One last thing you should be aware of is relative comparisons between fracking and other polluters. Looking at this graph below, if you consider shale gas fracking, it shows that comparing grams of carbon in MJ emitted, shale gas is substantially higher in polluting in the short term. However, in the long term, the amount between coal and shale gas is relatively the same.

8

[14]

However, lets compare fracking to a few other sources besides coal. Now lets look at fracking in comparison to multiple alternatives.

9

[15]

                As you can see from the graph below, fracking via natural gas is one of the process that requires a large amount of water. However, there is still signs that coal and other alternatives such as nuclear create more of an issue. But as a whole, it is clear that as opposed to using things like natural gas, nuclear, and coal, we should be using wind and solar.

From this discussion, I hope you conclude and truly understand the controversy about this product. It seems like society is divided between economists versus environmentalists. People for fracking focus on the economic benefits of lower costs and the concept of self-sufficiency from OPEC, something that sounds reasonable from just a pure business point of view. However, when taking into account environmental factors, health, and potential natural disasters including earthquakes, something needs to be taken into greater consideration. There needs to be more of an immediate study by the Environmental Protection Agency or an outside 3rd party source to determine the true effects of this oil and gas production process. The last thing society needs, especially in the United States, is a natural disaster that will further ruin the economically and the environment simultaneously.

Sources:

[1] https://www.asme.org/engineering-topics/articles/fossil-power/fracking-a-look-back

[2] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-14432401

[3] http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/brookings-now/posts/2015/03/economic-benefits-of-fracking

[4] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150915135827.htm

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cutGpoD3inc

[6] http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-environ-031113-144051

[7]http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/Frack_Actions_PhiladelphiaPA.pdf#_ga=1.37629600.1482881610.1442544077

[8]http://search.proquest.com/docview/1513845581?OpenUrlRefId=info:xri/sid:wcdiscovery&accountid=9784

[9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_E3A-D8mAb4

[10] http://www.napavalley.edu/Library/PublishingImages/fracking-infographic.jpg

[11] http://www2.epa.gov/hfstudy/executive-summary-hydraulic-fracturing-study-draft-assessment-2015

[12] http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/EPA_ReportOnPavillion_Dec-8-2011.pdf

[13]http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/fracking/pdfs/Colborn_2011_Natural_Gas_from_a_public_health_perspective.pdf

[14] http://desmogblog.com/fracking-the-future/myth.html

[15] http://www.theenergycollective.com/grantmcdermot/203111/us-shale-gas-european-climate-change-policy-carbon-emissions-natural-gas

[16] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DtYCl4eK_8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hydro-fracking: Environmental Destruction or Fuel Beneficiary?

 

Picture1

What originated a matter of 65 years ago during the petroleum industry is now ruining wells around the world. As it started as a minor source of fuel generation, it became one of the most popular methods for fuel generation, but now created an environmental worldwide debate.

Fracking, also known as the process of drilling down into layers of the earth while simultaneously releasing water at a high pressure, its goal to reach a series of rock and then be injected with a mixture of chemicals, water, and sand to create a gaseous mixture [1]. When looking at this from the perspective of its benefits, particularly being natural gas, which is a necessary commodity to the majority of households, power plants, and the basis of many objects we use today, fracking is a necessity. But from perspectives of environmentalists, the destruction fracking does to the ground outweighs these tremendous benefits.

One of the first questions about this booming industry focuses on why is the United States involved. From a governmental standpoint, the U.S. has relied on foreign oil, and with relations between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the United States at times becoming thin, this 1st world country must find a different form of energy.

Let’s begin by looking at the benefits of the fracking. The greatest benefit from an economic perspective is the price of natural gas.

3[3]2

Looking at this graph below, you can clearly see due to the so called “Fracking Revolution” that the natural gas prices have dropped 47% if you compared it to the price it would have been prior to 2013. Similarly, energy consumers see economic benefit, as gas bills have fallen $13 billion between the years 2007 and 2013 due to fracking. From a geographic perspective, the West South Central region and East North Central region, while includes states such as Arkansas, Lousiana, and Oklahoma as well as Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio respectively have seen upwards of over $200 per person in benefits. Essentially, if you are looking at the potential of the technology, it is widespread and already adapted, and has shown substantial returns in terms of energy and economic benefit. Yet, this does not address the health and environmental aspects.

Now with all of these benefits, this process seems like it should be widespread right? No, not so correct. When looking at fracking from a more environmental and resource conscious perspective, fracking takes up massive amount of precious resources, take for instance the most important resource to humans, water. A study from Duke University determined that, “Energy companies used nearly 250 billion gallons of water to extract shale gas and oil from hydraulically fractured wells in the U.S. between 2005 and 2014, a new study finds. [4] During the same period, the fracked wells generated about 210 billion gallons of wastewater.” Now, if you refer this back to the economic perspective, not only are you transporting massive amounts of water to run these machines, but you are wasting gas from the trucks to transport the water.

Another concern about the production of something is its “clean energy,” also known as the production of something releases nothing toxic and or has no harmful byproduct. Some studies, including the documentary Gasland, highlight the environmental effects and aftermath these products provide. Below is a segment of the documentary focusing on the aftermaths of one home in Colorado:

[5] (Begin At 11:00 and end at 16:25)

As you can see, there is at least some sort of environmental issues that fracking provides. Not only does the water look unclear, it looks black and filled with harmful chemicals, clearly violating “clean energy” and showing major signs of concern. Furthermore, what makes many question the fracking industry are that the companies being non-complaint to come, test the water, and provide an accurate judgment about the conditions they are living in and providing a solution to the problem. As you can see hear from the women, the companies come but essentially lie to the homeowners faces as it is clear that well water that is being retrieved from the ground should not be black. Moreover, as opposed to looking at the lives they are affecting, the companies seem to direct their attention more towards the economic upside of the potential customers they can reach if they put all their staff towards buying or signing with other properties to frack.

A recent scientific study titled, “The Environmental Costs and Benefits of Fracking,” looked more in depth into this video as well as the general process of fracking. The article stated that, “Primary threats to water resources include surface spills, wastewater disposal, and drinking-water contamination through poor well integrity. An increase in volatile organic compounds and air toxics locally are potential health threats, but the switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation will reduce sulfur, nitrogen, mercury and particulate air pollution.” As the article continues, it focuses on more hazards, saying that over 36% of the underground water that is in the United States, which could potentially be used for important aspects of life such as drinking and agriculture, can be ruined if fracking continues for another 5 years.

Focusing on the United States may be something too hard to imagine, so let’s go to scale with a local area in Philadelphia. According to the Council of the City of Philadelphia, there have been major problems with the contamination due to fracking, leading to Department of Environmental Protection and the Delaware River Basin Commission to ensure the health and safety of the regions drinking water [7]. Comparing the amount of illnesses in a more localizes area, which from Philadelphia was recorded to be over 300 people, on a large scale can be affecting millions of people. Another article, titled “The Health Implications of Fracking” explains some of the reasons why the United States issues have spread nationwide. Specifically, failure of structural integrity of cements and casing, surface spills, leakage from above-ground storage, as well as the structural integrity of heavy transport vehicles are viable causes for the problems occurring. However, there should be no major blame on the leaking and the surface spills, as regardless of the health implications from the contamination coming up from the ground, fracking is causing this pollution of the water which eventually leads to these issues. This means that in theory, by eliminating fracking, the United States water pollution and eventually health issues should decrease.

One of the most shocking studies that you see below is comparing Estrogen and Androgen in contents of soil and water samples for regions that contain fracking versus regions that don’t have fracking. As you can see from the image below, the amount of combined estimated marginal means of estrogenic, antiestrogenic, and antiandrogenic activities are much higher at the ground water level versus the surface level. Furthermore, based on this data, it is a reasonable consumption that the ground water could have been affected solely by fracking, creating these massive fluctuations of these chemicals. And because of these imbalances of these chemicals, the water can have discolorations and lead to future illnesses and hospitalities of people worldwide.

4

Beyond the health risks can be permanent environmental risks, something much more dramatic. As you will see in this BBC video below, one theory suggested that a recent earthquake could have been caused by fracking.

[9] (Start Video At 2:00)

Now, if this theory is correct, think about the potential devastation that fracking can do. The UK has just begun its fracking boom, so for countries such as the United States, there could be almost immediate potential disasters on a larger scale. With every risk comes a reward, but with a risk not only health wise, but environmental destruction wise may be a good reason to shut down fracking.

Now in terms of future fracking endeavors, there has been some speculation in terms of what agencies are upholding fracking and how successfully are they thus far. Supposedly, the United States Congress urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to do a well in depth study on hydraulic fracturing and its effects on the ground water. The U.S. Congress outlines on its government website that it wants the EPA to, “assess the potential for hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas to change the quality or quantity of drinking water resources, and identifies factors affecting the frequency or severity of any potential changes. This report can be used by federal, tribal, state, and local officials; industry; and the public to better understand and address any vulnerabilities of drinking water resources to hydraulic fracturing activities” [11]. However, there has been much speculation about this topic, including the EPA’s ability to run a in depth investigation, as plenty of new states and regions, such as Wyoming have emerged and openly stated there has been a major environmental issue in their state due to fracking [12]. If you would like to watch a video on this topic, click here.

As you watch the video, be in mind that this is an investigation of many, something that isn’t new to the EPA. Tying back to earlier in this discussion, the Gasland documentary has protested and attempts the United States government to run its own 3rd party investigation in an attempt to put this debate to rest, and if there is a problem (which seems like there is), then there should be some immediate solution. Although these small states such as Wyoming and Illinois may need fracking to produce jobs and economic stability, it should not come at the cost of environmental destruction.

From this discussion, I hope you conclude and truly understand the controversy about this product. It seems like society is divided between economists versus environmentalists. People for fracking focus on the economic benefits of lower costs and the concept of self-sufficiency from OPEC, something that sounds reasonable from just a pure business point of view. However, when taking into account environmental factors, health, and potential natural disasters including earthquakes, something needs to be taken into greater consideration. There needs to be more of an immediate study by the Environmental Protection Agency or an outside 3rd party source to determine the true effects of this oil and gas production process. The last thing society needs, especially in the United States, is a natural disaster that will further ruin the economically and the environment simultaneously.

 

 

 

Sources:

[1] https://www.asme.org/engineering-topics/articles/fossil-power/fracking-a-look-back

[2] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-14432401

[3] http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/brookings-now/posts/2015/03/economic-benefits-of-fracking

[4] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150915135827.htm

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cutGpoD3inc

[6] http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev-environ-031113-144051

[7]http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/Frack_Actions_PhiladelphiaPA.pdf#_ga=1.37629600.1482881610.1442544077

[8]http://search.proquest.com/docview/1513845581?OpenUrlRefId=info:xri/sid:wcdiscovery&accountid=9784

[9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_E3A-D8mAb4

[10] http://www.napavalley.edu/Library/PublishingImages/fracking-infographic.jpg

[11] http://www2.epa.gov/hfstudy/executive-summary-hydraulic-fracturing-study-draft-assessment-2015

[12] http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/EPA_ReportOnPavillion_Dec-8-2011.pdf