Fracking might get us more natural gas, but the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release the natural gas is risky.
First of all, there are the hundreds of chemicals used in the fracking fluid which include a number of dangerous carcinogens and toxins such as lead, uranium, mercury, ethylene glycol, radium, methanol, hydrochloric acid, and formaldehyde which can, and do, leak into ground water suppliers. For example, methane concentrations are 17x higher in drinking-water wells near fracturing sites than in normal wells. And it’s a sure thing that some of the fluid is going to leak considering at most 50% of the fracturing fluid, that is not biodegradable, is recovered.
In addition, some of this fracking fluid will evaporate and release harmful volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere that can contaminate the air and create acid rain.
If something goes wrong, the well can explode, and, in addition to killing and injuring workers, spark fires that can burn for days. This happened recently in Pennsylvania, where Chevon decided that it could offer free pizza to make up for deadly fracking explosion.
If too much gas is released, gravity can bring the earth down to fill the empty chambers and create massive sinkholes that can swallow entire towns. This is what happened last year to Bayou Corne, Louisiana.
In other words, while it works, it’s just not safe — in comparison to solar, wind, and water power which is plentiful, safe, and provided for free by mother nature. Now it won’t solve all of our energy problems, and we’re not going to be running trucks, trains, and planes on renewable energy any time soon — but, combined with natural (pump storage, etc.) and man-made “battery” arrays (which could include water and geothermal storage in addition to lithium-ion storage), it could solve more than half of our global energy problem with the appropriate balance and investment.
And if even the CEO of a known fracking company isn’t comfortable with fracking in his own backyard and is joining in on anti-fracking lawsuits (like the CEO of Exxon, as per this Salon article), that should tell us something.