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Does Fracking Have a Growing Future in Florida?


BRADENTON -- Is Florida next? The deep-pocket lingo that preempts fracking's arrival might suggest so. Just southwest of Lake Okeechobee, the Big Cypress National Preserve is said to be prime territory to start blasting away. Trouble is, now that Florida is on the radar for fracking, oil companies are suiting up to romance its anti-regulation state government, with hopes to make Florida the next fracking frontier. 

Hydraulic Fracturing

The News-Press reported that Ed Pollister, owner/operator of Century Oil said, "At some point if I don't do it, somebody else will." That may be more true than not, and pro-oil industry legislators would seem likely to take the same line of logic in order to give them the green light.  

Pollister has offices in Immokalee and Michigan and thinks fracking in Florida is inevitable, and may even happen within the next year. The News Press also reported that Alico Inc. was said to have discovered 94 tons of possible fracking sand in Hendry County.

These claims are often what opens the doors for lawmakers to test the public's reaction. What comes in close behind the rhetoric is a plethora of statistics from the industry, with claims of it being the next best thing to save us from our energy-hungry selves. 

But the controversy surrounding fracking's history doesn't paint such a pretty picture. The New York Times has covered the practice of fracking extensively in a series called Drilling Down, and it is not a bed of roses. The paper has reported about the millions of gallons of water it takes before any gas is found, about the hundreds of dangerous chemicals needed for the process, about how toxic the effluent water is and how much of a problem it is to dispose of.

There are other harmful aspects of the practice as well, and the excessive release of methane gas is the big one. Methane is a greenhouse gas, some 20 times more destructive to the ozone layer than CO2. It takes years for the slow moving gas to reach the outer layer that protects our planet, and most scientists believe there is already enough methane gas on its way to the ozone layer to cause catastrophic damage in escalating global warming.

Fracking, slang for a process known as hydraulic fracturing, is under intensive operation in West Virginia, Colorado, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Louisiana, Arkansas and North Dakota with additional projects in at least a dozen other states. Anywhere there is a possibility of natural gas being lodged deep beneath the ground -- and a willingness by the powers that be in a state to exploit it -- the industry will be there.

Of course it is often the consumer flipping the bill for the exploration. But whether or not enough gas is extracted to make a difference to our dependency on foreign oil, the process reaps devastation on and beyond the area that is being drilled. 

Scripps News reported back in 2010 that in Ohio alone, well drillers have been cited 14,409 times for violations. Because of the size of the industry's lobby, one of the most powerful in Washington, many of the objections that have been raining in from throughout the country get little notice. From the same report, "When Pennsylvania regulators tried to strengthen state oversight of how drilling wastewater is tracked, an industry coalition argued vehemently against it. Three of the top state officials at a meeting on the subject have since left the government — for the natural-gas industry."

The hundreds of millions of dollars spent selling the practice are helping to keep the media on the industry's side. A new movie called Promised Land, starring Matt Damon, has just hit theaters and is the first major film to address the issue. It is already under attack from pro-industry forces. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) isn't saying much when asked for their opinion. They say it isn't currently on the table. Local newspapers aren't jumping to get into the discussion either, with many ignoring the hearsay, passing on the due diligence and waiting to see what happens. They know that as the subject arises the money that comes in to forge the battle can often mean big profits for them too. The Daily News reported, that the New York Times is now under attack by "top-shelf players like Exxon and Chesapeake," for printing just how dangerous and bogus many of the oil industry's claims are when it comes to the benefits vs the cost. 

The truth is, every refuge has its price, whether it is pay now or pay later, and the latter is usually the knockout punch. Florida can't hardly afford to deal with any of the ramifications and proven perils associated with fracking. I see little doubt Florida's pro-drilling governor will do anything but support the process. What the people of Florida need to remember is that you cannot separate Florida's environment from the future of its economy. Let's hope that has been a lesson well enough learned to leave us weary of promises of fracking a path to prosperity.


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