Institute for Energy Research Founder and CEO Robert Bradley recently penned a column for Forbes.com titled “Ban Fracking? Bad Economic, Bad Ecology.” In the piece, Bradley explains how the practice of hydraulic fracturing is not only safe but also helps bolster America’s economy. Read the piece below:
Ban Fracking? Bad Economics, Bad Ecology
By Robert Bradley Jr.
April 13, 2017
Warning: low-cost, clean energy may be hazardous to your health.
Or so say environmental activists who will trot out any line of attack in their crusade against fossil fuels.
For years, the green movement has spread falsehoods about hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — the practice of unlocking hydrocarbons by injecting high-pressure liquid deep into the earth. Lately, the leave-it-in-the-ground lobby has doubled down on its mission to thwart the latest oil and gas extraction techniques.
But research consistently shows that fracking is a secure — and economically savvy — form of energy production. Banning it, as New York State and Maryland have done, hurts economies — and the environment.
Critics have recently blamed fracking for releasing chemicals that cause asthma and premature births. Others allege that noise from fracking disrupts those sleeping nearby, leading to stress, high blood pressure, diabetes and even heart disease. Still others believe chemical spills and pipeline cracks are contaminating water in states like Pennsylvania.
These claims are designed to scare legislatures and city councils into make fracking illegal. The critics’ playbook seems to be: deploy any seemingly plausible claim and see what sticks.
In Nevada, for example, lawmakers are debating whether to end fracking, even though it would come at the expense of the state’s economy. Counties and towns in California and Ohio are also attempting to shut down the now routine practice.
Fracking is Safe
The new prohibitionists are grasping at straws.
In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency released a study on the environmental impacts of fracking on drinking water. It found no evidence that fracking “led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”
A recent review of the report attributed this to strong industry safety standards, as well as effective state and local fracking oversight and regulation.
Indeed, the oil and gas industry has 600 different standards for overseeing the fracking process, many of them specifically to construct wells safely and protect groundwater. And fracking sites are subject to federal and state regulation and regular audits. Meanwhile, gas and oil companies closely collaborate with towns and communities near drilling sites.
Further fortifying the EPA’s report, the agency’s previous administrator, Lisa Jackson, declared that there was not a “proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.” Former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar declared that he “would say to everybody that hydraulic fracking is safe.” And Ernest Moniz, former Secretary of Energy, admitted, “I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per-se contaminating ground water.”
And as for harmful airborne chemicals? Academics, state regulators, and even the EPA have found no link between poor air quality and fracking.
Meanwhile, some critics allege that fracking causes earthquakes. But numerous studies debunk these claims.
Not only is fracking safe, it also bolsters America’s economy and communities.
Spurred by fracking, the energy renaissance has supported millions of jobs and saved taxpayers nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in energy costs.
Banning fracking would not only surrender these economic benefits, but compromise America’s access to affordable energy. More than 45 percent of the nation’s oil and 60 percent of its natural gas comes from this technology. And contrary to claims that the days of cheap gas have ended, America has an untapped 800 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which can be cultivated for $3 or less per thousand cubic feet.
What if, in a radical anti-energy world, fracking had been banned country-wide? “What if … America’s energy renaissance never actually happened?” asked an analysis by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.
This study’s “reality check” estimates that a retrospective ban on fracking would have caused natural gas and electricity rates to increase by about 30 percent and motor fuel prices by about 40 percent. Additionally, an estimated 4.3 million jobs would have been jeopardized, along with $548 billion in annual gross domestic product. Even half this sum would be a shocking loss.
The study notes that the fractionation boom “began quietly, mostly on private and state lands, but momentum built up quickly…as a result of the work of entrepreneurs and the application of technology and cutting edge innovation.” Lacking support from the previous administration, “the energy revolution took place in spite of — not because of — U.S. energy policy.”
“We are going to ban fracking in 50 states in this country,” intoned Bernie Sanders on the campaign trail. “By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place,” stated Hillary Clinton last year.
Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and Bill McKibben’s 350.org promulgate the same theme of immobilizing resources for an alleged greater good.
Yet these turn-back-the-clock politicians, not to mention self-described environmentalists, do not raise an eyebrow when it comes to industrial wind turbines’ ill health effects and property devaluation.
“What happened to Bill McKibben?” asked environmentalist Suzanna Jones. Contrary to the themes in his book, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, McKibben became a supporter of industrial wind turbines. Jones noted: “He wants to industrialize our last wild spaces to feed the very economy he fingered as the source of our environmental problems.”
What is the anti-fracking fringe of the environmental movement refusing to acknowledge? As Robert Bryce opined in the Los Angeles Times:
Rural residents are objecting to wind projects to protect their property values and viewsheds. They don’t want to live next door to industrial-scale wind farms. They don’t want to see the red-blinking lights atop the turbines, all night, every night for the rest of their lives. Nor do they want to be subjected to the audible and inaudible noise the turbines produce.
McKibben professes sympathy to this complaint.
[Environmentalists] point out that wind turbines damage wildlife habitat and ridgeline forests…. I know that it is sadly correct that putting in tall turbines will hurt the acres where they go. That land won’t ever be the same.
But he justifies this damage with a loaded statement: “Our world is being very rapidly overtaken by climate change.”
Climate change? Is there anything that will get Bill McKibben et al. to realize that CO2 has ecological benefits, not only costs? That climate models are unreliable and overpredicting warming? That dense energy leaves a smaller ecological footprint than his favored renewable energies?
Consider the view of Peter Huber in his profound book Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists. “The greenest fuels are the ones that contain the most energy per pound of material that must be mined, trucked, pumped, piped, and burnt,” he states. In contrast, “extracting comparable amounts of energy from the surface would entail truly monstrous environmental disruption.”
Huber’s conclusion? “The greenest possible strategy is to mine and to bury, to fly and to tunnel, to search high and low, where the life mostly isn’t, and so to leave the edge, the space in the middle, living and green.”
Message to McKibben: frack beneath the earth, don’t bury it in wind turbines.
By extracting maximum energy with minimal resources, fracking actually helps the environment.
Yet anti-energy environmentalists continue to push back against fracking based on phony accusations. Americans and their political leaders should not be fooled. When it comes to energy production, the right economic policy matches the right environmental policy.