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Joseph Sheaffer

3/31/15

Reflective Essay: Natural Gas Drilling


Throughout the last decade natural gas has become a large source of
energy, particularly in the United States. The cost of foreign oil increased
exponentially during the economic recession, causing the US to decrease its
dependence on foreign oil. Through the combination of improved drilling
technology and lax environmental laws, the United States has increased its
production of natural gas. Currently, natural gas accounts for 24% of our
energy (National Academy of Sciences 2015). Proponents of natural gas are
optimistic about the future, seeing it as a way to continue to decrease our
dependency on foreign oil. On the other side of the conversation,
environmentalists see the drilling techniques, such as hydro fracking, as
extremely detrimental to the environment. The future of natural gas looks
extremely different for each of these sides and it will be fascinating to see
how the issue actually progresses.
Natural gas right now is primarily used in the heating of residences. It
is used to heat more than half of the homes in the United States (National
Academy of Sciences 2015). Propane, a derivative of natural gas, is used to
power lots of household appliances. Ovens, grills, and heating systems are
all powered by propane (National Academy of Sciences 2015). Although it is
not as prevalent in electricity, natural gas still powers 21% of the nations
electricity (National Academy of Sciences 2015). Since such large amounts of
energy are required to account for electricity, coal and oil serve as primary
sources. If natural gas drilling increases, this could change in the future. The

Joseph Sheaffer

3/31/15

International Energy Agency states that the flexibility of natural gas plants is
well suited to deal with the fluctuating demands for electricity each month
(IEA 2015). If natural gas drilling is able to grow significantly more, then it
has the potential to power a greater amount of the nations electricity.
Proponents of natural gas drilling are excited about the prospect of
becoming an energy dependent nation. They see hydro fracking as a much
cleaner energy source than oil, with lower carbon emissions (IEA 2015). The
supporters point to the flexibility of drilling plants, which can be built in
roughly two years (IEA 2015). Natural gas can be used to power cars and
heat homes. It can bring a tremendous amount of business to individuals and
a community as well. The introduction of hydro fracking has enabled access
to natural gas shales that were previously unable to be drilled from (National
Academy of Sciences 2015). This improved technology led to the rapid influx
in natural gas production. Since the industry exploded quickly, restrictions on
the drilling process have been very relaxed thus far, allowing for increased
production.
Environmentalists are strongly opposed to the process of hydro
fracking. The Environmental Protection Agency worries about CO2 and
methane emissions that are destructive to the atmosphere and the air we
breathe (EPA 2014). Another worry about fracking is the disposal of the water
used in the drilling process. After the water is used to obtain natural gas, it is
undrinkable and must be disposed of correctly. If not, the tainted water can
lead to a chemical runoff in ground water. Due to these fears, the EPA has

Joseph Sheaffer

3/31/15

taken action and increased the regulation of the drill sites (EPA 2014). These
steps have been made in an effort to protect the environment.
The introduction of hydro fracking revolutionized natural gas drilling,
especially in the United States. We are able to produce more of our own
energy sources. Natural gas can power cars or heat homes. It has fewer CO2
emissions than oil. However, the drilling process is dangerous to the
environment. Methane emissions damage the atmosphere, while the waste
water can contaminate ground water. The natural gas debate has two
distinct sides, with few people in the middle.

Joseph Sheaffer

3/31/15

Bibliography
1. "Natural Gas." IEA. International Energy Agency, 2015. Web. 31 Mar.
2015.
2. "Oil and Natural Gas Air Pollution Standards." EPA. Environmental
Protection Agency, 25 Oct. 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.
3. "The National Academies." Our Energy Sources, Natural Gas .

National Academy of Sciences, 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.