Kurzgesagt (meaning “to make a long story short” in German) are a group of German designers who produce science videos during their spare time. “Fracking Explained: Opportunity or Danger” examines the controversial topic of hydraulic fracturing.
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” for short, is the method of extracting oil or natural gas by forcing open fissures in subterranean rocks by pumping a cocktail of chemicals into the earth at a high pressure. Fracking has boomed in the United States in recent years due to sustained demand for energy, coupled with unsustainable reliance on fossil fuels, pushing energy companies to turn to increasingly expensive and harmful methods of extraction.
On my flight from Beijing to New York last summer, I saw next to a soft-spoken, middle-aged man who likes to play basketball. He was on his way to attend a fracking conference in Texas. Based on China’s dependence on low energy costs to fuel economic growth, combined with its disregard for the environment and human health, I predict fracking will become popular in China even as opposition for the practice builds in the United States.
Kurzgesagt endearingly tries to approach fracking in a neutral manner, giving their YouTube video the title, “Fracking Explained: Opportunity or Danger.” The very definition of fracking implies danger for the environment and people who live near fracking sites. During the video, "Fracking Explained" points out that:
- "On average the fluid consists of 8 million liters of water which amounts to about the daily consumption of 65,000 people."
- "The primary risks consist in the contamination of drinking water sources… Even though the danger is known and theoretically could be managed, in the USA already, sources have been contaminated due to negligence."
- "The chemicals used in fracking vary from the hazardous to the extremely toxic and carcinogenic such as benzene or frolic acid. The companies using fracking say nothing about the precise composition of the chemical mixture."
- "Another risk is the release of greenhouse gases. The natural gas recovered by fracking consists largely of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25-times more potent than carbon dioxide. Natural gas is less harmful than coal when burned, but nonetheless, the negative effects of fracking on the climate balance are overall greater."
Both The Atlantic and Mother Jones have reported that (surprise! surprise!) fracking is not good for the environment. In fact, fracking may be contribute to earthquakes. Dangerous levels of radioactivity can be found at fracking waste sites. Residents who live near fracking sites not only suffer from home damage and health risks, but also psychological effects. And fracking will make your beer taste bad.
The “opportunity” for fracking can be pretty much summed up by this wonderful cartoon by Tom Toro, published November 26, 2012 in The New Yorker: