Deep Inside the Wild World of China’s Fracking Boom | Mother Jones

DESPITE BEING TOUTED AS A CLEANER alternative to dirty coal, fracking in China comes with plenty of environmental problems. The country’s shale gas lies deeper underground and in more complex geologic formations than those deposits in the flatlands of Pennsylvania, North Dakota, or Texas. As a result, researchers estimated that the Chinese wells will require up to twice the amount of water used at American sites to crack open the reserves. Indeed, researcher Tian Qinghua points out that it’s hard to imagine how there will be enough water to support an American-style fracking boom in a country with less water per capita than Namibia or Swaziland, where land twice the size of New York City turns to desert every year. Today more than a quarter of the country has already dried up, the equivalent of about a third of the continental United States.

An engineer who formerly designed cigarette and paper factories in the 1990s, Tian—who is in his 50s with spiked hair, rectangular glasses, and a professorial air—traces his environmental conversion back to the time he trained a group of technicians from Burma at a sugar factory in Yunnan Province. If they built a factory like this one back home, they asked him, would their river become black like the Kaiyuan River? “I began to doubt my career,” he told us, sipping hot green tea out of a glass beer stein. “All the factories I designed were heavy polluters.” He quit his job and began pursuing environmental research. “I wanted to pick a career I could be proud of by the time I retire,” he said.

via Deep Inside the Wild World of China’s Fracking Boom | Mother Jones.