Seven Facts for Fracking Deniers

At a recent town hall meeting in Edmond, Oklahoma, local citizens gathered to discuss the possible connection between fracking and increased seismic activity in their area.  According to one published report, members of the audience left “disappointed” that no consensus had been reached linking fracking and seismic activity.  According to the same report, many in the audience appeared to be “hostile to the oil and gas industry.”  Even in this most oil-friendly of states, it seems, there is a rush to judgment linking fracking to every conceivable sort of damage.

Although fracking has been around for fifty years, only recently have technological advances made its widespread use economically feasible.  Now fracking is reviving the entire American economy by providing efficient fuel for new industries and slashing energy costs for consumers.  By 2015, the U.S. will begin exporting natural gas, most of it produced by fracking.

No wonder the left is furious.  Anything that promises to restore American greatness drives leftists crazy.  Their dream of global socialism, with America brought down to the bottom of the heap, is at risk, and they have responded by targeting America’s oil and gas industry.

Having tried unsuccessfully to link fracking to groundwater contamination, opponents have turned their attention to the potential link between fracking and earthquake activity.  The problem is, even scientists who normally align with the left now admit that hydraulic fracturing itself does not and cannot cause earthquakes.  The only unresolved question is whether wastewater injection, a byproduct of current fracking procedures, may contribute to increased seismic activity.

Clearly, the left is engaged in an all-out effort to smear the oil and gas industry by spreading misinformation and fostering confusion – such as ignoring the difference between fracking itself and wastewater injection.  The intent of this effort is to cripple the U.S. economy by depriving it of an efficient and reliable source of energy.  The ultimate goal, as always, is to strip America of its sovereignty and subject it to the will of a communist world order.  The energy industry stands in the way of this agenda, as does every other industry operating within the free market.

Fracking is now essential to America’s energy security and economic well-being, and thus essential to the liberty of its citizens.  Like all forms of capitalist activity, it must be defended against those who plot to destroy freedom, and the best way to defend it is to separate fact from fiction.

Fact #1: Fracking, in and of itself, does not cause earthquake activity (or, for that matter, groundwater pollution or other harmful effects).

Fact #2: In some locations where fracking has taken place, there has been a coincidental increase in the number of earthquakes.  In other areas where widespread fracking has taken place, no quakes or tremors have been registered.  As authorities stated at the Edmond meeting, there exists no conclusive evidence that fracking causes earthquakes.  It should also be stressed that none of the quakes purportedly linked to fracking have seriously injured human beings or caused major property damage.

Fact #3: Even in those limited areas where earthquake activity has increased, it is impossible to know to what extent seismic activity has increased, since speculation about the connection with fracking has led to the deployment of a larger number of monitoring devices.  According to one prominent geologist, a similar increase in seismic activity may have taken place in Oklahoma in the early 1950s, though an absence of recording devices at that time makes an exact comparison impossible.  The record shows that Oklahoma has a long history of earthquake activity.  While more quakes and tremors are now being recorded, it is certain that a larger number would have been detected in the past if an equal number of monitoring devices had been deployed.

Fact #4: It is alleged that injection wells, used to dispose of fracking liquids deep underground, may be triggering seismic activity.  Most seismologists admit, however, that it is impossible at this time to prove that wastewater injection is the cause of increased earthquake activity.  As scientists study the connection between wastewater disposal and seismic activity, it may be necessary to establish better standards or develop new methods of wastewater disposal.  Energy companies are committed to following best practices in this regard.

These facts contradict the left’s attempts to demonize fracking.  As with the anti-nuclear witch hunt of the 1980s following an accident at Three Mile Island, there is the danger that states and municipalities – or the federal government through the EPA or other agencies – will impose regulations or moratoriums that shut down an important segment of our nation’s energy supply.  Had the anti-nuclear lunacy not swept the country following Three Mile Island in 1979, America would have been a lot better off.  Lost oil and gas production due to a moratorium on fracking (such as Germany has just imposed) would result in even greater harm.

Given the serious implications for U.S. energy independence and economic growth, any discussion of fracking and seismic activity needs to consider three additional facts.

Fact #5: Fracking has led to an increase in domestic oil and gas production and a major reduction in dependence on foreign oil.  Since 2005, U.S. oil production has increased from approximately 5 million to 8 million barrels per day.  Combined with increased fuel efficiency and a slight decline in miles driven, increased domestic oil production has cut dependence on foreign oil in half.  According to the International Energy Agency, the U.S. will become the world’s largest oil producer by 2015.

Fact #6: The oil and gas industry has contributed the lion’s share of job growth since 2008.  According to the American Energy Institute, as of January 2013, jobs in the oil and gas sector had increased by 26.2%, while overall employment in the five-year period had declined by 2.3%.  And unlike most jobs created in the Obama’s years, oil and gas jobs are high-paying.  In 2013, annual earnings for workers in North Dakota’s oil fields averaged $112,000.  Nationally, petroleum engineers averaged between $110,000 and $150,000 annually, with senior engineers and managers earning far more.

Fact #7: Fracking has lowered the cost of natural gas and helped to restrain price increases for oil as well.  According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, natural gas prices peaked at $13.42 per mBtu in October 2005.  After fracking became common in the U.S., prices declined to a low of $1.99 per mBtu in April 2012, and they remain low today.  Lower energy prices have reduced costs for homes, schools, businesses, and industries.  At the same time, fracking has generated tens of billions of dollars of new revenue for states and municipalities.

Given these facts, the obvious conclusion is that government should move slowly and deliberately before imposing unnecessary restrictions on fracking, especially in the absence of evidence linking the practice to earthquakes or other ill effects.

Instead of shouting down fracking at town hall meetings, the public needs to be marching in support of this advanced technology.  Otherwise, some other nation – perhaps China or Russia – will eventually surpass us in this vital technology and reap all the rewards that fracking now provides.       

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books on American politics and culture, including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

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