Fracking FAQ from Popular Mechanics

Here's PM's take on environmental impacts (via Glenn):

Are the fluids used in fracking toxic?

Often, companies that perform fracking operations don't publicly reveal what compounds they use to facilitate the gas extraction process. (Halliburton may prove an exception to the rule; it has agreed to give the government data about the fracking chemicals it uses by January 2011.) When Farnham & Associates, an environmental engineering firm, tested a well near a hydraulic fracturing zone in Pennsylvania, it found a range of contaminants in the water, including ethylene glycol and toluene, both of which can be toxic to humans. They appear on a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection list of compounds known to be used in hydraulic fracturing, but Cabot Oil and Gas, the company that conducted the drilling, claimed it had not used the chemicals.

What impact does fracking have on drinking water?

Some people living near fracking sites have reported abnormalities in their tap water, including dark-colored grease, sediments and floating debris. The EPA has revealed plans to conduct a large-scale study to look into the problem further. "There are serious concerns about whether the process of hydraulic fracturing impacts drinking water. Further study is warranted," the agency announced in a statement released earlier this year. The investigation is slated to begin in January 2011.
The Bay Journal has been writing a lot about fracking in the past year, including:


Food miles: a profoundly flawed sustainability indicator

Matt Ridley, on page 41 of The Rational Optimist:
Should we not protest T-shirt miles, too, and laptop miles? After all, fruit and vegetables account for more than 20 percent of all exports from poor countries, whereas most laptops come from rich countries, so singling out food imports for special discrimination means singling out poor countries for sanctions. Two economists recently concluded, after studying the issue, that the entire concept of food miles is a 'profoundly flawed sustainability indicator'. Getting food from the farmer to the shop causes just 4 percent of all its lifetime emissions. Ten times as much carbon is emitted in refrigerating British food as in air-freighting it from abroad, and fifty times as much is emitted by the customer travelling to the shops. A New Zealand lamb, shipped to England, requires one-quarter as much carbon to get on to a London plate as a Welsh lamb; a Dutch rose, grown in a heated greenhouse and sold in London, has six times the carbon footprint of a Kenyan rose grown under the sun using water recycled through a fish farm, using geothermal electricity and providing employment to Kenyan women.
Ridley's book is terrific. Please buy a copy and read it. Or listen to the audio book, which is available at the BCPL. If you read it, join Phil Bowermaster's Facebook group Let's Get 1000 People to Read the Rational Optimist.

* Yes, We Have No Bananas: a Critique of the Food-Miles Perspective, by Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu. Mercatus Center, George Mason University.

See also Ron Bailey's The Food-Miles Mistake.