Fracking Hysteria: It’s Not About The Environment, It’s About Competition With Green Energy
At Reason, Ronald Bailey as an excellent run-down of the environmentalist movement’s turn on hydraulic fracturing despite once heralding it as a “bridge to the future” of energy. After all, hydraulic fracturing made a wealth of natural gas reserves available for trapping by energy producers, and burning natural gas (which already supplies about 45% of our electricity) produces roughly 25% less carbon than burning coal.
Given that natural gas is comparatively cleaner than coal, you’d think the environmentalists would be delighted. But they’re not. They’re hysterical about hydraulic fracturing, which is the drilling technique that makes these new reserves of natural gas available.
As it turns out, the fracking hysteria is being driven less by actual concern over the environment than concerns about oil and natural gas competing with so-called “green” energies.
Given its greenhouse gas benefits, environmental activists initially welcomed shale gas. For example, in August 2009 prominent liberalis Timothy Wirth and John Podesta, writing on behalf of the Energy Future Coalition, hailed shale gas as “a bridge fuel to a 21st-century energy economy that relies on efficiency, renewable sources, and low-carbon fossil fuels such as natural gas.” The same year, environmentalist Robert Kennedy, Jr., head of the Waterkeeper Alliance, declared in the Financial Times, “In the short term, natural gas is an obvious bridge fuel to the ‘new’ energy economy.”
That was then, but this is now. Practically en masse, the herd of independent minds that constitutes the environmentalist community has now collectively decided that natural gas is a “bridge to nowhere.” Why? In his excellent overview, The Shale Gas Shock [download], published last week by the London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation, journalist Matt Ridley explains: “As it became apparent that shale gas was a competitive threat to renewable energy as well as to coal, the green movement has turned against shale.” …
Since renewables come off so badly in comparison with natural gas and offer energy independence as well, once-enthusiastic activists evidently began to search for other reasons for opposing it.
The reasons they’ve come up with are the chemicals used in fracking fluid, the risk of contaminating ground water and other water sources and the damage to the landscape.
The problem is that none of these are very compelling when you look at the facts. Fracking fluid, for instance, is 99.9% water and sand with the rest being chemical mixed in as lubricants (among other purposes). As for contaminating groundwater, a 2010 report produced by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (and quoted in the article linked above) “concluded that no groundwater pollution or disruption of underground sources of drinking water have been attributed to hydraulic fracturing of deep gas formations.”
What’s more, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences “found no evidence for contamination of the shallow wells near active drilling sites from deep brines and/or fracturing fluids.” The study did find evidence of elevated levels of natural gas in groundwater wells within 3,000 feet of active drilling sites, but it attributed this to “leaky casings” and not, specifically, hydraulic fracturing.
Bailey ends his piece with this, “No industrial process is completely benign and all have environmental consequences.” That’s a true statement, and the question he challenges us to ask is, “Do the benefits outweigh the costs?”
Renewable energies – wind and solar and the like – are expensive and unreliable. If we hamstring traditional energy producers, we’ll have no choice but to pay higher prices for energy. Higher prices for energy means a lower standard of living as the cost of living goes higher.Tags: fracking, North Dakota News, oil