Texas Towns Frack Their Way To Drought Conditions
Antonia Juhasz: Fate of Texas is a reminder of the dangers of hydro-fracking techniques now embraced by President Obama
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
Texas towns are running out of water. That’s right. Southwestern towns have been experiencing the worst drought in two generations. Long known as oil country, West Texas is now in conflict with the big oil companies over hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, which is essentially putting more pressure on the dwindling water supply, to the tune of 8 million gallons a day each time a well is fracked. In some communities, fracking accounts for up to 25 percent of water use, and according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, about 30 communities could run out of water by the end of the year.
Now joining us to discuss all this is Antonia Juhasz. Antonia is an oil and energy author, analyst, and investigative journalist. She’s the author of three books on the oil industry, her most recent being Black Tide.
Thank you for joining us, Antonia.
ANTONIA JUHASZ, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: Thanks for having me.
DESVARIEUX: So, Antonia, can you get into the details specifically about why these Texas towns are running out of water?
JUHASZ: Yeah. You just got a horrible triple punch hitting these Texas communities. One is climate change, which has led to, as you said, many, many years of intensive and increasing drought. There is simply less water, and now there is significantly more demand being placed on it because of the boom, absolute explosion of hydraulic fracking taking place across the Permian Basin, which goes from Texas into New Mexico. And each well that is drilled–there are thousands of wells that are drilled by hundreds of rigs every single day–every single well requires millions of gallons of water, and that water has to come from somewhere, and it’s being sucked right out of the wells of these Texas communities. And as Suzanne Goldenberg’s brilliant piece in The Guardian exposed, as you said, 30 communities across Texas by the end of the year may no longer have water. And that is basically a result of the intensive water usage required for fracking, for this natural gas and oil production.
DESVARIEUX: So let’s talk a little bit more about fracking. And in President Obama’s recent speech, he spoke about fracking as being this transitional energy supply as we make our way to more sustainable energy. Do you feel like fracking is a good option or a good stopgap measure?
JUHASZ: No. It’s a deeply problematic production process. It’s incredibly water intensive, energy intensive, chemically intensive. And the idea that it’s being done as a stopgap just doesn’t really make sense, because the more that domestic producers are making of natural gas, the more they are exporting out of the United States. So it’s not a stopgap domestic consumption measure. It’s a stopgap help the oil companies maintain their insane profits measure. It’s, you know, being used to help them continue with their business, a lot of which is moving product, both oil and natural gas, outside of the United States, because we are doing a tremendous job of reducing our energy consumption here, our oil and gasoline consumption.
And what we need to do is push ahead with that. We’re already doing it. We’re doing a great job. We can do that way better. And that doesn’t mean increasing our domestic production of oil and natural gas. It means reducing what we produce and significantly curtailing the way that it’s done.
And right now, fracking is moving forward way ahead of the regulatory process to even know what’s going on, what chemicals are involved, how is the process moving forward. We have very little regulatory rules in place, very little regulatory oversight, yet this model of production is booming. And we need to let at a minimum the rules catch up.
But more importantly, you know, we have to get past oil and natural gas much more rapidly than we already are. And there are many measures that the government could be doing, could be putting in place right now to help us make that transition much faster and much smoother. And creating an open door policy for fracking simply isn’t–I don’t think should be one of those options on the table.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. And to my understanding, you were just in Texas, Antonia, doing some research on an exposé that you’re going to be writing for The Advocate. It should be coming out in September. Can you just give us a bit of a preview? What did you find when you were down there?
JUHASZ: Well, fracking is everywhere. That’s certainly one thing. I was in Dallas, and there’s literally fracking right around the houses of some of the wealthiest oil people, actually, in the state. Everywhere you go, there’s fracking going on. And one of the, I guess, good pieces of that is that because the fracking is impacting wealthy people, you know, right in–you know, near the downtown of Dallas, there’s really starting to be some pushback and some questioning going on of the policies that are being used to allow this fracking to move forward and the extreme costs associated with it.
And Exxon, which I wrote the exposé on, purchased XTO Energy in 2010, a major natural gas producer, including using fracking. And this company is just one avenue that Exxon is using to rapidly increase as much as it possibly can, through every avenue that it can, its oil and natural gas holdings to continue to maintain its record-breaking profits. Those activities have pushed it into the Russian Arctic. They’ve pushed it into Iraq. They have been interested in producing in Afghanistan. And it’s really going to every extreme that it can, including fracking in its own backdoor, to keep those record-breaking profits moving forward.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Antonia.
JUHASZ: Well, thank you for having me.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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