Questions & Answers

What is the Significance of "350"?

Bill McKibben is a grassroots, international environmental organization started by founded by author Bill McKibben with the goal of building a global grassroots movement to raise awareness about human-driven climate change. takes its name from the research of Goddard Institute for Space Studies scientist James E. Hansen, who postulated that 350 parts-per-million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere is a safe upper limit to avoid a climate tipping point. (Wikipedia) Why I Must  Speak Out About Climate Change


Isn't Climate Change Up for Debate?

The basic science of global warming can be summarized in three simple statements, which embody two indisputable scientific facts and the inevitable conclusion that follows from them:

Fact: Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, by which we mean a gas that traps heat and makes a planet (like Earth or Venus) warmer than it would be otherwise.

Fact: Human activity, especially the use of fossil fuels — by which we mean coal, oil, and gas, all of which release carbon dioxide when burned — is adding significantly more of this heat-trapping gas to Earth’s atmosphere.

Inevitable Conclusion: We should expect the rising carbon dioxide concentration to warm our planet, with the warming becoming more severe as we add more carbon dioxide. [from Jeffrey Bennett's "A Global Warming Primer"]


What is Hydraulic Fracturing ("Fracking")?

Here's a 5-minute animation video that explains fracking.
Fracking explained in 5 minutes
Article explaining fracking by StateImpact, a Pennsylvania NPR collaborative between two stations. Thorough (but brief) article. Includes a link to Explore Shale: which has a very cool interactive page.


How do the Levels of CO2 Today Compare with Historical Records?

Here's a scary animation that graphically compares today's levels with the past. Our CO2 levels are so much higher! Click on the image to see the page with the video.
CO2 trends


How Much Water is Used in Fracking?

In Marcellus Shale sites in WV and PA, the average is 5 million gallons. (Between 2011 and 2013, drillers in Pennsylvania used about 11 billion gallons of water.)

That water is trucked to the site. How many truck loads? It depends of course on each truck’s capacity. The short answer: at least 1000 round trips to haul the water in, and then another 1000 round trips to haul the water out.

The long answer: see RESI's report, pages 93-100.)

When considering the water issue, remember that the people who live on the small local roads near fracking sites will be exposed to the persistent sounds and smells of these diesel trucks. Also, these small local lanes are not designed for the persistent volume and heavy loads.

In the fracking process, water is combined with chemicals and sand to make the hydraulic fracturing fluid. Under pressure, it is injected into the well. What happens to the water after the fracking occurs? It depends. Typically, the water is removed and hauled away from the fracking site.

EPA Water Cycle


Why are Chemicals Used in Fracking? What Types, and How Much?

Chemicals are used to reduce friction; biocides to prevent microorganism growth and to reduce biofouling of the fractures; oxygen scavengers and other stabilizers to prevent corrosion of metal pipes; and acids are used to remove drilling mud damage within the near‐wellbore area.

The fracking industry, in explaining the fracking process, will mention that chemicals are used, but they don't emphasize the quantity or type. They primarily emphasize that water and sand are used to do the fracking.

From "...By setting a small charge, which perforates the casing and cement, we create the necessary opening in the casing to allow the hydraulic fracturing portion of the completions process to begin. The fracturing fluids – made up of more than 99.5 percent water and sand – is then injected under controlled high pressure to break open the formation, and expand and hold open the fractures, allowing the natural gas to flow to the well head."

Further on in the site “The number of chemical additives used in a typical fracture treatment depends on the conditions of the specific well being fractured. A typical fracture treatment will use very low concentrations of between 3 and 12 additive chemicals, depending on the characteristics of the water and the shale formation being fractured.”

"Very low concentrations" doesn’t sound so bad.

Do the math. 0.5% of 5 million gallons of water means 25,000 gallons of chemicals In another site, 2% is mentioned, which translates to 125,000 gallons of chemicals. ...pumped into the well under pressure.

What chemicals? “…additive chemicals” According to the EPA's briefing, Dec. 13, 2106 "Some chemicals in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle are known to be hazardous to human health. Of the 1,606 chemicals, 173 had chronic oral toxicity values..."

(See Chemicals Used in Pennsylvania)

Just a few from the list, in case you didn't click the link: Trimethylbenzene, Aromatic Ketones, Petroleum Naptha, Toluene, Xylene...) If you are curious about the potential hazards that these chemicals raise, here is link to the CDC's Pocket Guide to Hazardous Chemicals." Enter the chemical name, and the site returns a page of information.

If your household uses a well for its water, would you like these chemicals to be added to your water supply?


Does Fracking Cause Earthquakes?

According to industry, fracking does not cause the earthquakes.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, "...we do know that many earthquakes in Oklahoma have been triggered by wastewater fluid injection.” So not the actual fracking, but a separate part of the process. Maryland's proposed (but rejected) regulations had prohibited the injection of the wastewater, which takes us back to the trucking problem - the waste water has to be taken elsewhere. (Bloomberg)

Closer to home, on February 17, 2017, Pennsylvania's Dept. of Environmental Protection announced a correlation between eartquakes and fracing in Pennsylvania. Read more...

View Jon Stewart's DisbeliefJon Stewart Wonders if Fracking and Oklahoma Earthquakes are Related


Why is Sand Used in Fracking?

Sand is used in the fracking mix used to keep the fractures open. So what's wrong with using sand? Ask the people who live near sand mining operations. In Wisconsin and Michigan, a huge sand mining industry has developed to supply the fracking industry. During frac sand mining, crystalline silica is released into the air. It is a known carcinogen and can cause silicosis, an incurable lung disease that can lead to death.
CBS: Sand mining in Wisconsin

Brief video from CBS News aired in 2014

OSHA Fact Sheet The people who live in areas where this sand mining occurs are physically impacted by this mining.


Does Fracking Reduce CO2 Usage or is the Opposite True?

Some proponents of fracking argue that natural gas serves as a “bridge fuel” to use until we can use renewables more broadly. Burning carbon, whether coal or methane (natural gas), produces carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H20). CO2 and H20 contribute to trapping heat in the earth’s lower atmosphere.

The problem is, whenever we burn, whatever we burn, we are increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Since industrialization, the concentration of CO2 has risen from about 280 parts per million (ppm) to over 400 ppm due to human activities. Many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments agree that 350 ppm is the “safe” level of carbon dioxide. [350] Watch a really good video from that explains the problem.

Atmospheric CO2
Bill Nye talks about global warming


Isn't Climate Change a Normal, Cyclical Event?

Whether climate change is man made or not is not the issue. More importantly, the question is, what can we do about it?

University of Maryland released a document: Farming in a Changing Climate

This debate is complex --please learn more and do not simply accept sound bites.

Natural or not? You decide. Here's a link if you want a much more detailed answer to the question "What if global warming is just a natural cycle?"


Is Fracking Safe from Accidents?

Murphy's law: Accidents happen.

List published by the Sierra Club of various fracking disasters.

States record fracking industry accidents, but apparently not very accurately. Pennsylvania's Dept. of the Environment (DEP) reported 271; buried in Folders were 1,275 water complaints Pennsylvania Fracking Water Contamination Much Higher Than Reported

After an explosion killed a company employee, the safety manager of Weatherford, Texas-based C&R Downhole Drilling told investigators she was new to the position and did not have any formal training in safety. Read more...


Doesn't Fracking Reduce the Cost of Gas for the Consumer?

The Cove Point liquid natural gas (LNG) in southern Maryland is one of many LNG export facilities recently built or being built in the US. Financial analysts are optimistic that when these LNG export facilities come online, the domestic prices will rise.

Wouldn’t it be more sensible to keep the carbon source underground until we actually need it, instead of shipping it overseas?

Who benefits from this exporting? Not the residents of Cove Point, nor the residents throughout Maryland.

What happens when the fracked oil and gas is gone?

The owners of GAIL (India) Ltd. and ST Cove Point (a joint venture of units of Japanese trading company Sumitomo Corp and Tokyo Gas Co Ltd.) will surely benefit. Dominion sold the Cove Point project’s capacity for 20 years to them. Read more...


Has Fracking Been Associated with Health Issues?

People with asthma who live near active unconventional natural gas wells operated by the fracking industry in Pennsylvania are 1.5 to four times likelier to have asthma attacks than those who live farther away, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests.

The findings, published July 18 in JAMA Internal Medicine, add to a growing body of evidence tying the fracking industry to health concerns. Health officials have been concerned about the effect of this type of drilling on air and water quality, as well as the stress of living near a well where just developing the site of the well can require more than 1,000 truck trips on once-quiet roads. The fracking industry has developed more than 9,000 wells in Pennsylvania in just the past decade. Read more...

Links & Resources

Links & Resources Doc

Interactive Tools

Earth's latest data for atmospheric CO2: Atmospheric CO2

Dirty Energy Money Dirty Energy Money tracks the flow of oil, gas, and coal industry contributions to the US Congress. Enter a politician's name, a zipcode, or a company and the site returns a mind-boggling graphic indicating the level of the "dirty energy campaign money."

Fractracker's interactive map indicates wells in a given area.

Drilling Maps at indicates wells in a given area.

Fraccidents at Fraccidents map from Earth Justice

Oklahoma eathquakesSelect a date range to see the seismic activity in Oklahoma. (Oklahoma began having a significant number of earthquakes in 2009, the same year local oil companies began using fracking...)