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Separate from the potential poisoning of our water supply, withdrawing millions of gallons of water from an ecosystem, river or well can cause terrific damage in and of itself — all the more so in drought-ravaged areas of the West and Midwest, where so much fracking takes place. Deep injection of fracking waste can also cause earthquakes because it lubricates faults. And we don’t know whether fracking fluid and natural gas will come up through old abandoned wells that intersect with fractured rock.
It would already make a huge difference if the fracking companies were charged for the “cradle to grave” use of these billions of gallons of water, including the cost of the predictable truck spills and the technology to treat the flowback water that doesn’t spill. But we can go further than that in our accounting, because so much of that water is being removed for good.
Let’s be very conservative and say that there are 100,000 times that this water could be used by the biosphere and gone in one shot. How much does a gallon of water times 100,000 cost? More than a cubic foot of gas? Actually, more than 50,000 cubic feet of gas.
This magnification of the value of water is no exaggeration; if anything, the price is far too low. In 100 years, the people who are alive will look back in horror to think of how we wasted and ruined our precious water resources in order to bring more and more poison up to the surface of this very good and beautiful planet.
For science and ecology, as well as for Kabbalah, water is the very substance of life. So shall we take this gallon of water, brought here in this planet’s early childhood by comets of ice — this gallon that has passed through the forms of sky and cloud and ocean for billions of years, and even cycled through cytoplasm and breath, sap and blood — and remove it forever, for all practical purposes, from life’s cycle?
You see, even if we didn’t worry about tap water catching fire, or about thousands of acres of land taken over by wells and collection pits and truck roads, or about all the escaped methane driven into the atmosphere (where it will accelerate global climate disruption 20 times more powerfully than carbon dioxide) — even without these things, fracking, and the attitude behind fracking, would still be a danger to the well-being of the planet.
Ban? Moratorium? If people want to stop fracking, if municipalities and citizens want to take control of their land from rapacious companies and know-nothing state governments, then let’s charge the companies for what our precious water is really worth.
David Seidenberg is a rabbi and the creator of the website neohasid.org. His first book, on ecology and Kabbalah, will be coming out this year.