Originally Posted by patteeu
In your opinion, is there any significantly greater reason to fear the environmental impact of fracking than to fear that of poorly regulated oil extraction or nuclear energy production? Or for that matter, the disposal of chemical waste?
Complicated question when you look at it from a life cycle perspective.
From the stand point of putting the well in place oil drilling and NG fracking are roughly equivalent.
The main risk of fracking a well is the impact on overall water resources (how much water are you losing to the fracking process that you might need for other uses) and the removal of pollutants from the production water (the water that comes back up the well) before disposal.
For both types of wells, I think it is important to control NG emissions during the initial period before the well is put into productive operation.
During transport there is potential for natural gas leakage. Since methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, that needs to be monitored and controlled.
Oil has to be refined and there are environmental risks associated with that process, largely regulated.
Oil is a dirtier fuel than natural gas when you burn it.
Done properly with fuel reprocessing nuclear is potentially the cleanest. Fuel reprocessing is currently politically infeasible in this country. And the number of actual accidents shows that the risk of accidents is far underestimated. The financial risk for utilities is also huge, but that isn't an environmental risk.
Chemical waste disposal doesn't really fit with the others. It is a collection of diverse operations that get rid of an environmental liability, while energy production is concerned with obtaining an asset. So I'll leave that one out.
I'll throw in coal and renewables for reference.
So I'd rank them with respect to environmental friendliness once the fracking regs come to steady state:
renewables > fracked natural gas > nuclear > oil > coal