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Daniel J. Graeber

Daniel J. Graeber

Daniel Graeber is a writer and political analyst based in Michigan. His work on matters related to the geopolitical aspects of the global energy sector,…

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For Frac(k)'s Sake!

With all respect for fans of “Battlestar Galactica,” the folks at Merriam-Webster have listed the word spelled "fracking" as the method for extracting oil and natural gas from the ground.

Alongside such popular social media words as "selfie" and "unfriend" – no, Twitter, we're not ready to formally adopt "#" as a word – comes "fracking" with a "k."

Frack, as a verb, means to force water, sand and chemical fluids into a layer of subterranean rock to crack it open and extract escaping oil or natural gas.

“Fracking” is shorthand for hydraulic fracturing, the actual drilling process used to coax oil and gas out of shale, says the latest edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Because that spelling is so close to the spelling of a well-known profanity, people in the shale industry were against it. Opponents of fracking have gleefully seized on the word it to express their feelings; there’s even a website called, www.nofrackingway.us

The industry tried spelling it with a double "c," but that would make it sound like “frassing” to some. Or maybe a single "c," but isn't that “frace-ing?”

The latest edition of the Associated Press Stylebook -- which tells news organizations not only how to punctuate a headline, but spends a good two pages just on the apostrophe (sorry, semicolon) -- says it’s “fracking” presumably because it's easier to say it right – like “tracking” or “packing.”

The debate over how to wrap your tongue around the latest energy issue extends even into the shale plays themselves. Does the Bakken reserve area in North Dakota sound more like “bawkin?” Or maybe “back-in?” A case could even be made for “bacon,” as in the great Bacon oil play.

It's actually “bah-ken,” which rhymes with the 80's hair-metal band Dokken. Or for the younger crowd, it sounds like rockin', which, one could argue, makes more sense given the nature of the subterranean layers of, well, rock, involved.

Related Article: Fracking In Southern England Becoming Political Headache For Tories

Fracking, the process, is as controversial as the spelling itself. Opponents say it's an environmental threat because methane gas escaping from wells contributes to global warming and chemicals used in the process have been identified as groundwater pollutants.

Fracking (with a "k") is a "violent process," says the Sierra Club.

Proponents say it's the greatest and safest thing since market capitalism. Fracking, says the American Petroleum Institute (API) -- and this was before Merriam-Webster's entry, mind you --  means "jobs, jobs, jobs."

Would that make it a noun?

So, it seems at the end of the day that Battlestar Gallactica lost out, at least when it comes to fracking (with a "k"). Perhaps, then, all is still right in a world when the folks at Sierra Club can still say fracking is fraking dangerous and API can reply they don't really know what the frak they're talking about anyhow.

And, please, all fraking fracking jokes are welcome in the comments section below.

By Daniel J. Graeber of Oilprice.com


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  • Elspeth DiFurio on May 29 2014 said:
    You can add to this that the original middle German meaning of the word frack was greed, not the best sort of PR for the petroleum industry.

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