In case you haven’t noticed, the United States is currently gripped by the worst drought in sixty or so years. Thousands of record-high temperatures have been broken nationwide, and parts of the MidWest have experienced several straight weeks of triple-digit temperatures. This is wreaking havoc on crops and people alike, though for environmentalists, there is one small upside; due to a dependence on water, some fracking operations nationwide have been shut down due to a lack of water.
Nature Strikes Back
Fracking is the procedure whereby millions of gallons of water and chemicals are pumped into shale rock formations thousands of feet into the Earth. Fracking has led to a natural gas boom, and has helped spur discoveries of oil in places like South Dakota. Oil companies claim fracking is both safe and necessary, though they refuse to release the ingredients of their chemical slurries.
Environmentalists are against fracking for a variety of reasons, blaming it for many natural disasters including flammable water and earthquakes. The thing is, because the U.S. is suffering such a severe drought, with more than half of U.S. counties experiencing severe drought conditions, prices for water have doubled or even tripled. And when you’re talking about pumping between 2 and 12 MILLION gallons of water underground, that’s not exactly easy to acquire in dry times like these.
In some places, like Pennsylvania, water companies have outright denied fracking operations permits to siphon water from local rivers. This means oil companies are going farther out of their way to get access to water…if there is any to be had. In Kansas, some farmers have more than doubled the price they charge oil companies, from 35-cents per barrel to 75-cents or more. That’s capitalism, baby!
An Inevitable Showdown?
So far, the drought has effected approximately 5% of new wells by some industry analsyts, and it isn’t expected to impact oil or gas prices…as long as the drought ends. But what if it doesn’t? What if this is the start of a new dust bowl? This could be the beginning of the water wars many of us have heard about.
Might Mother Nature shut down fracking forever? Don’t hold your breathe. If anything, this may pit fracking operations against the local human and animal populace over the battle for water rights. And since oil corporations are apparently people these days, people with near unlimited funds, this may be the first scene of an inevitable showdown over who has more rights to water; people, or “people”. Companies will always find a way to make money, water be damned.