Ban fracking? Bad economics, bad ecology

Robert Bradley

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 hurts economies and the environment.

False Issues

Critics have recently blamed fracking for releasing chemicals that cause asthma and premature births. Others allege that noise from fracking leads to stress, diabetes and even heart disease. Still others believe chemical spills and pipeline cracks are contaminating water.

These claims are designed to scare legislatures and city councils into make fracking illegal.

In Nevada, for example, lawmakers are debating whether to end fracking, 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 practice.

Fracking is Safe

The new prohibitionists are grasping at straws.

In 2015, the EPA released a study on the environmental impacts of fracking. 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 fracking oversight and regulation.

Indeed, the oil and gas industry has 600 different standards for overseeing fracking. And fracking sites are subject to federal and state regulation and regular audits.

And as for harmful airborne chemicals? Academics, state regulators, and even the EPA have found no link between poor air quality and fracking.

America’s Gain

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.

Political Sport

“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,” stated Hillary Clinton.

Yet these turn-back-the-clock politicians do not raise an eyebrow when it comes to industrial wind turbines’ ill health effects.

Is there anything that will get environmentalists to realize that CO2 has ecological benefits? That climate models are unreliable? That dense energy leaves a smaller ecological footprint than their favored renewable energies?

Consider the view of Peter Huber in his book Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists. “The greenest fuels … contain the most energy per pound of material that must be mined, trucked, pumped, piped, and burnt.” In contrast, “extracting comparable amounts of energy from the surface would entail truly monstrous environmental disruption.”

Message: frack beneath the earth, don’t bury it in wind turbines.

Conclusion: 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.

Robert L. Bradley Jr. is the founder and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research.