Unless you’ve been living on a desert island for the last couple of years, you’ve probably heard of “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing, and you may well have seen dramatic footage of tap water being ignited. If you listen to the slick and expensive public relations campaign from the natural gas drilling industry, lobbyists and politicians of both parties, fracking is the answer to this country’s energy problems, a way to free us from our problematic ties to Saudi Arabian and Middle East oil.
President Obama, for example, insists that this country has a 100-year supply of shale gas. Yet that figure has been shown to be grossly exaggerated. In fact, the U.S. has 11 years of recoverable shale gas. And because the price of natural gas in this country has plunged to the lowest levels in decades, we are now looking to export it, mostly to Japan and China:
Yet for this, we are turning large swaths of our country into toxic industrial zones. Currently, fracking is taking place in 36 states across the nation. Natural gas drilling, one of the most powerful businesses on the globe, has become the new gold rush for those who stand to benefit. But for those who stand in the way, it can be devastating.
Chris Mobaldi became gravely ill after gas rigs moved 300 feet from her home in Rifle, Colorado. Her symptoms worsened when a well next to the property exploded. Developing symptoms of biblical proportions — rashes, blisters causing her skin to peel off, headaches, bloody stool — she began to rapidly age, with her vision and balance severely compromised. When the Mobaldis found they could ignite their water, the gas company told them to stop drinking it. But then four months later, the company said it was again safe to drink. Then, Chris was diagnosed with the first of three rare-pituitary tumors linked to fracking chemicals.
“My wife’s fingerprints disappeared, which doctors said may have been caused by chemical damage to her DNA or chromosomes,” her husband Steve told me. Two of their dogs developed tumors, as did neighboring pets. Dozens of trees and birds on their 10-acre property began to die. Two baby llamas they were raising died of respiratory difficulties. “We were living in a killing field,” adds Steve. “My wife was worse affected because she was home most of the time, whereas I was traveling for my work.”
Unable to live in or sell their five-bedroom $439,000 home, they were forced to abandon it and move 60 miles away. Eventually, Chris would be diagnosed with severe chemical exposure. She died of her multiple maladies at the end of 2010.