Classroom Activity Page: Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a high-pressure technique for cracking rocks and allowing natural gas to reach wells. Amid a boom in U.S. natural gas production, industry promises that fracking will bring Americans jobs and low-cost energy for decades. Opponents warn that the drilling-and-fracking process threatens to pollute air, surface water, and most importantly, groundwater. Will these concerns stymie an ongoing boom in natural gas production? Should they?
A high-pressure rock-buster caused natural gas production to explode. How does fracking work? What’s up with groundwater pollution?
Fish contamination was rare after the giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, with levels of dangerous hydrocarbons well below “levels of concern.” But nobody looked systematically at heavy metals, the Gulf still has a lot of oil, and the many different hydrocarbons may have unpredictable impacts.
BP released 160,000 tons of methane into Gulf. Most was eaten by bacteria. Can bacteria on the seabed reduce global warming from methane?
When big tech goes bad, we ask: How do engineers design fail-safe mechanisms for nuclear weapons, radioactive waste, spaceships?
What kind of ecological damage can we expect from a sustained blowout in the Gulf of Mexico? What are the lessons of Exxon Valdez, and how well do they apply to the current outbreak of oil? Is prevention really the only strategy?
Canada’s oil-drenched sands are the second-largest oil reserves, but they pollute air and water, destroy forests and boost warming. A good idea?
Plug-in hybrids mean more than just extra spending cash for drivers, though. They could offer a new path through the maze of the electric grid, and help to boost the use of alternative energy.
What was the long-term impact of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska? Did the cleanup help, or make matters worse? Who are you going to believe in a case like this?
Marine iguana in the Galapagos islands are suffering from trace amounts of oil left by a tanker accident.
How do we find and produce oil and natural gas? Give credit to the ancient plants that make oil and natural gas. Why do oil companies whack the Earth? What is a horizontal drill good for?