My opinion on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is that it?s an awesome technology. Awesome because it is relatively clean, it?s a huge boon for employment, and its sheer abundance in our country means true energy independence in my lifetime, or at least in my children?s lifetime. If you are a doubter, adamantly against fracking, or simply unsure how you feel about fracking because you don?t know enough, I have three simple questions for you:
- Do you drive a gasoline- or diesel-powered car? This includes hybrids…
- Do you live in a home that uses electricity?
- Are the clothes you wear made somewhere other than the city in which you live?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should embrace fracking.Why? Because fracking is a relatively clean way to extract natural gas from the ground. And natural gas is a vastly cleaner energy source than oil or coal, which are used to power your car, power your home, make the clothes you wear, transport the products and food you buy, and most everything else in between.
Everyone Consumes Non-Renewable Energy
Let?s face it: every time you turn the ignition key in your car, flip on the light switch in your room, turn on your a/c, fire up your computer to check your Facebook news feed or read this blog, buy your grande skinny vanilla latte from Starbucks, or buy your organic produce from Whole Foods, you are consuming mostly non-renewable energy,?energy mainly provided by oil and coal. Yes, Whole Foods grocery stores use electricity from the same electric grid your home does, and the products in their stores are trucked in by diesel-powered 16-wheelers, just like Kroger, Safeway, Publix, Winn-Dixie, Giant, and every other grocery store in America.
We Readily Accept the Negative Impacts of Oil and Coal
We as a society have embraced gasoline and coal. ?No one thinks twice about groundwater contamination emanating from leaking underground storage tanks that hold the gasoline our cars and motorcycles consume. Very few people complain about coal mining in West Virginia or about all the various health and environmental impacts produced by our coal-fired power plants. No one gives much thought to the carcinogenic effects of a few spilled drops of pure gasoline on your hand while pumping 89-octane fuel into your car?s tank. And surely, very few Americans actually care about the environmental consequences of oil exploration in Nigeria. As a society, we have simply accepted the negative impacts of these energy sources as the price to be paid for the benefits they provide to our way of life.
Fear-Based Opposition to Fracking
But when it comes to hydraulic fracturing, why are we imposing higher standards? Why, when the impacts of extracting gas from shale are inconsequential as compared to those caused by oil and coal extraction? In a word: fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of change.
Fracking is something new, and as such, it is something that is relatively unknown by most of us. ?And what do most of us do when we don?t understand something? Shun it first, study it later. But we shouldn?t react this way. We should embrace fracking. While fracking has its own share of environmental consequences, these are far less than those imposed by oil and coal?practically non-issues when compared to the latter. And the benefits are huge. Some data points to consider, as reported by NPR this summer:
- More than 20 State governors have asked Detroit to produce natural gas cars in quantity
- US carbon emissions are DOWN 8% since 2006, mostly related to the decline of coal and the rise of cleaner-burning natural gas
- Fracking has led to a natural gas boom that has caused prices to plummet, and as a result, power plants are switching from coal to natural gas
So next time you drive your gasoline-powered Accord or Prius to work, lower the a/c thermostat in your home during the summer so that you can sleep well, make a run to the neighborhood grocery store to buy bananas flown in from Costa Rica, or buy a polo shirt at The Gap that was made in Malaysia, think about all the energy you are consuming, direct and indirect. After all, everything you do…everything…consumes energy.?And currently, in 2012 in the USA, most of that energy is being provided by oil and coal. Fortunately, natural gas is making a big dent in this, a dent that, in my opinion, is a very large step toward energy independence, with a small environmental price to pay. Certainly a much smaller price than big oil and king coal.