Watch: This Video Explains Almost Everything You Want to Know About Fracking


Still trying to figure out what the big deal with fracking is? Hydraulic fracturing—fracking for short—is the controversial process that has fueled the new energy boom in the US, making it possible to tap reserves that had previously been too difficult and expensive to extract. It works by pumping millions of gallons of pressurized water, with sand and a cocktail of chemicals, into rock formations to create tiny cracks and release trapped oil and gas. It’s been tied to earthquakes and has led to a number of lawsuits, including one that resulted in a settlement agreement that barred a seven-year-old from ever talking about it. At the same time, fracking has also created a glut of cheap energy and is helping to push coal, and coal-fired power plants, out of the market.

But for all the fighting about whether fracking is good or bad (and research has shown the more people know, the more polarized they become), many people don’t understand what fracking actually is. The Munich-based design team Kurzgesagt has put together a video that explains why fracking—which has been around since the 1940s—just caught on in the last ten years, and why people are worried. The video, which was posted earlier this month, has gone viral, and racked up over one million views in less than 10 days.

The video gets a lot right, but critics have also taken issue with a few of its claims. For example, the video states that fracking companies “say nothing about the precise composition of the chemical mixture but it is known that there are about 700 chemical agents which can be used in the process.” Energy in Depth, an industry group, has released a response noting that companies do disclose some information about chemicals used in fracking. What that group doesn’t mention, however, is that companies don’t have to disclose chemicals that are designated as “trade secrets,” which is a pretty serious exception.

Energy in Depth also quotes former EPA chief Lisa Jackson’s testimony (among others) that “in no case have we made a definitive determination that the [fracturing] process has caused chemicals to enter groundwater.” The key word here is “definitive”—there is a growing body of evidence that fracking can be linked to increased levels of methane, propane, and ethane in groundwater near fracking sites (likely due to faulty wells), and there are plenty of reasons to question whether pumping billions of gallons of toxic fluid into disposal wells is a good idea. (ProPublica has a couple of great, long pieces on injection wells.)

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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