Our region is sitting on a potential gold mine — a tremendous natural gas reserve, accessible by safe, responsible hydraulic fracturing stands to create hundreds of jobs and generate millions of dollars for the Chattanooga area.
Opponents of the hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” procedure used to coax the natural gas from bedrock, claim that fracking creates a perilous threat to the environment.
But that simply isn’t the fracking truth.
Some green alarmists claim the process of fracking, which involves pumping soapy water mixture into wells more than 3,000 feet below the surface, contaminates groundwater.
Research performed by Popular Mechanics magazine determined that fear simply isn’t founded.
“The shale that contains natural gas lies below thousands of feet of impermeable rock, so the fracking process itself will not contaminate drinking water aquifers, which generally are only a few hundred feet below the surface at most,” the magazine concluded.
The EPA performed tests in three areas where green activists claimed fracking was polluting groundwater — Pavillion, Wyo.; Dimock, Pa.; and Parker County, Texas. In each case taxpayer-funded studies proved fracking in the area did nothing to threaten water supplies.
Anti-frackers also claim that the tiny amount of chemicals included in the mixture used for fracking will harm the environment.
Modern fracking techniques have eliminated that concern. The liquid used in fracking — which includes water, instant coffee and walnut shells, as well as a trace amount of chemicals — is not left underground. Instead, the energy companies involved in fracking retrieve the liquid and reuse it to drill their next well.
The increased reliance on natural gas instead of oil and coal in energy production as a result of fracking is a primary reason America’s air quality has improved significantly over the past two decades. In other words, fracking has actually greatly helped the environment, not harmed it.
Not only is fracking environmentally safe, it is extraordinarily beneficial to the economy.
The dramatic increase in natural gas as a result of fracking has saved all Americans a substantial amount of money on their electric bills. Cheap shale gas will save the average American family $650 in home heating and electricity costs, according to Canada’s TD Bank.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce report found that fracking has “created 1.75 million jobs over the past few years alone,” and will be responsible for $62 billion in tax revenue this year.
Given the exceptional benefits of fracking with so little downside, why is there so much opposition to fracking?
It seems much of the anti-fracking activism was spurred on by “Gasland,” a 2010 documentary that has been widely discredited for containing false accusations, poor science and misleading claims. John Hanger, the former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection called the film “fundamentally dishonest” and “a deliberately false presentation for dramatic effect.”
One of the film’s most resonant moments comes when a Colorado man lights the water tricking from his kitchen faucet on fire — a result of fracking, the film falsly claims. The movie director now admits that the man had accidentally drilled his home’s water well into a naturally occurring pocket of methane. The movie certainly didn’t let that fact get in the way of a good story.
It may seem surprising that more environmentalists don’t embrace fracking. After all, natural gas is much cleaners than coal or oil. Popular Mechanics points out that natural gas “emits half as much carbon dioxide, less than one-third the nitrogen oxides, and 1 percent as much sulfur oxides as coal combustion.”
In fact, the Sierra Club was once a cheerleader for fracking. The environmental organization “helped fund a breakthrough study at the Green Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon University that concluded that shale gas is a fantastic, low-carbon replacement fuel for higher-carbon-generating oil and coal,” according to the New York Post.
So why did environmentalists jump off the fracking bandwagon?
It seems the abundance of cheap natural gas not only widely replaced oil and coal, but it also made the green energy alternatives beloved by environmentalists economically uncompetitive.
If environmentalists want to attack the ability of people in our area to have access to well-paying jobs and cheap energy, they certainly have that right. It’s just too bad that green extremists so often rely on spurious science, hyperbole and outright fiction to criticize fracking, rather than engaging in a meaningful debate.
In reality, fracking is not the dangerous boogeyman that environmental radicals claim. Fracking is a safe, effective, time-tested way to draw natural gas out of the ground. If truth and common sense win the debate over lies and unfounded hysteria, one day soon our area will benefit from jobs, economic prosperity and cheaper energy as a result of the rocks we are lucky enough to have beneath our feet.