OK, so now that we are all ‘intellectually’ prepared to think about fracking causing earthquakes (remember you don’t have to really, really believe this); we can talk about the important issues and questions around the fracking-earthquakes that don’t seem are even being thought about.
Is the increase in seismic activity associated with fracking a bad thing? I know that the concept of earthquakes would immediately lead one to believe that it must be dangerous and deadly to the public, but that’s a simplistic conclusion and a blind leap that all earthquakes are bad. If you consider that the number of earthquakes that occur every year is 1.5 million (about 4,000 a day) then you have to ask yourself – REALLY? Given this, is your view on the badness of earthquakes perhaps now dependent upon the question of “well how big a quake are we talking about?” We should be able to take some comfort in the fact that if fracking does lead to more earthquakes that doesn’t mean that it harms us. It doesn’t mean that fracking doesn’t pose a hazard either but we are at least starting to comprehend that like most things the fracking / earthquake issue is not subject to resolution by the simple-minded (and I don’t just mean politicians).
What about the possibility that fracking-induced quakes are actually beneficial? Now an earthquake is the process of the earth’s crust releasing stresses and pressures through the shifting, breaking, fracturing (note the commonality of terminology here) and/or shearing of the rock strata. This release of potential energy does produce some kinetic effects that vary in magnitude with the (here we go again) magnitude of the seismic event. Now what if fracking enables these stress release events to occur more frequently at lower energy levels? What if it eliminated the “Big One”? In other words, fracking may reduce the risk, danger and damage that normal naturally produced earthquakes might represent. Are a thousand small quakes that are hardly even noticed better than, equal to, or worse than one seismic event that brings down the house?
We should ask the geologists, particularly those heavily vested in researching and studying earthquakes, whether the active creation of mini-quakes in say Ohio could reduce the intensity of stresses in Colorado which reduces pressures in California? Maybe Ohioans could help the good people of California by accepting the inconvenience of a bunch of small tremors every day. Of course there is the possibility that all these little fracking quakes could actually trigger the “Big One”, maybe even contribute to the eruption of the Yellowstone caldera. Ohioans may not be as negatively affected by the one as the other but you would think they would have some degree of self-interest and consideration to at least want someone to explain the risk to them. Ok, I have to admit, I don’t know that much about the people in Ohio. I’ve lived near Ohio both to the east and west; and I’ve driven through/across Ohio a couple times. But I can only speculate that the people of Ohio would expect the question of fracking and earthquakes to be considered, assessed and reacted to based on a scientific understanding not upon the wishful thinking and attitudes that some prefer to apply to state and national issues.
In addition to these aspects of fracking-quakes there are second-tier issues that would be related to the consequences of increased tremors and quakes to the environment, for example pollution of ground water.
These oft ignored questions only look at the practice of fracking along the dimension of their propensity to affect the frequency, magnitude and consequences of earthquakes. Other dimensions of fracking remain with their own questions and are equally worth of being examined and understood by competent and informed individuals (again not applicable to politicians).
You can now go back to your personal view of does fracking cause earthquakes? And if you think that is the only question of importance then it probably doesn’t matter whether it does or doesn’t.