Every day, you use oil products that make your life better and easier. Thanks to advances in a technology called hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” for short – America now has plenty of oil and gas and doesn’t have to rely on other countries for energy. That’s great, but what is fracking?
Old School Oil
In the old days, oil was trapped in the ground under certain types of rock, and all you needed to do to get the oil was to drill a hole and pump it up. All over the Midwest, one can find these oil pumps, and many of them are still in operation.
But oil wells don’t last forever, and in 1970, U.S. oil production peaked. That turned out to be a problem because Americans had become dependent on it to live a good life. People drove cars, traveled by air, used plastic, and enjoyed low food prices because oil made farming cheaper.
To continue its lifestyle, America had to import more and more oil from foreign nations. Many of these were dictatorships. Suddenly they got power over Americans because we needed them.
This started changing around 2005. There is plenty of oil in the ground in America, but most of it is inaccessible in deep rock formations, but by injecting fluid at high pressure, one is able to crack the rocks, which releases oil and gas that can more easily be pumped up.
By 2012, one million “frac jobs” had been performed on American oil wells, and by October 2019, America became energy independent again for the first time in 75 years.
There is no free lunch, and fracking comes at a cost. Some of the gas leaks out of the soil into the air and can cause problems. The cracked rocks can also create small earthquakes. Some of the oil can also leak into the groundwater, which can cause problems for the people and animals that live in the area. So far, the benefits of fracking far outweigh the risks and costs.
The Benefit of Oil
More than a century ago, farmers had to grow crops with the use of horses and physical labor. The work was hard. Most Americans had to work on farms. Food was expensive, and people were poor. Then came cars, trucks, and tractors running on gasoline from oil. This allowed farmers to use machines to do much of the heavy work. Far fewer people were needed to produce all the food we eat. Thanks to oil, Americans no longer need to toil in the fields just to get food.
This is just one of many ways that oil makes us all wealthier. Because of fracking, Americans can continue to enjoy the benefits of oil for decades to come.