Like many of those who come to IU South Bend, I drive a car most places. I drive it by myself. I love driving cars. It has something to do with the idea of freedom found by rolling the windows down, turning your music up, singing to the steering wheel, feeling the wind in your hair as you shift into a higher gear (or feel your car do it for you), pressing down the gas pedal and feeling yourself being taken away to …wherever it is you’re going.
Yes, I am the daughter of a mechanical engineer. I grew up with an appreciation for cars. Yes, oil is something that runs the cars Americans love to drive (including myself). But what else does crude oil go into? Should we really pay attention to how it is extracted? Does it matter?
The resounding answer is “frack yes,” you should care. According to a list found on PBS’s Independent Lens section, we interact with products made from petroleum every day. Even typing these words, I’m interacting with a product of petroleum. Computers, fake fur, food preservatives, fertilizers, ball point pens, knitting needles, photographs, some allergy medications, double-knit shirts…the list goes on and on with familiar, everyday items. The full list may be accessed here.
Shocking? Maybe not to everyone, but it is shocking to see why companies are diving into dangerous depths to drill. (The Deepwater Horizon oil spill associated with BP has become the example of why it is a dangerous practice). The practice of extracting oil, called fracking, can sometimes even compromise the water safety of entire towns.
Fracking’s formal name is “hydraulic fracturing” and is defined by OxfordDictionaries.com, as “the forcing open of fissures in subterranean rocks by introducing liquid at high pressure, especially to extract oil or gas.”
Fracking is said to be safe, but there is also a large opposition to the practice.
According to dangersoffracking.com, methane concentrations are 17 times higher in drinking-water wells near fracturing sites than in normal wells.
“During this process, methane gas and toxic chemicals leach out from the system and contaminate nearby groundwater,” according to the website.
We’ve already seen what can happen when there is an accident at a deep water drilling site, so maybe it really is time to rethink the way we go about our lives. Sure, computers will probably be plastic for a very long time, as will our phone’s cases and parts, and hybrid/electric cars are still very expensive. I understand, I am in the same boat. But maybe using a few less one-use plastic bottles wouldn’t hurt, and driving a little less and walking a little more would do well for all of us?
There’s no fracking way the industry will change the way it does business, nor will it mold to a different lifestyle, until the people demand a change. We’ve got one earth, and today I’m urging you to reuse, recycle and consider carpooling, walking and biking. It isn’t just for granola-loving (oh, now I’m hungry), barefoot hippies. It’s for all of us.