Energy Independence: Frack We Must

As the price of oil shoots through the roof because of political instability, and the inability of the Obama Administration to say yes to Canadian oil and thousands of jobs, we have to turn to other energy sources. Fortunately, there’s a cleaner and safer opportunity in natural gas right here in the United States

But some Chicken Littles in the environmental panic industry are preventing people from heating their homes and driving up the cost of electricity, while simultaneously denying needed jobs in the worst unemployment in decades. They claim to have found environmental damage in the process to retrieve the gas from shale deposits – called hydraulic fracturing, but the short answer is they’re wrong. The long answer is that they’re really fracking wrong: hydraulic fracturing is safer, cleaner, and cheaper than any of our current alternatives; and that’s just what’s scares these pseudo-scientists.

We must look at the scientific facts before making a policy decision, and the facts about shale gas, when you cut through a great deal of disinformation, are simple. First, it’s less expensive than the fossil fuel alternatives. At $66 per megawatt-hour, natural gas beats the dirtier and more dangerous coal, which costs around $90 per MWh. It even costs less than solar, wind (off and onshore), nuclear, oil and bio-diesel.

And shale gas doesn’t just save money, it saves lives. On average, fifty to sixty coal miners die every year. Every miner must wear artificial breathing apparatus to protect them in case of a disaster, disasters which happen with alarming frequency. Explosions, cave-ins and methane leaks combine to make coal mining the most dangerous job in the United States today.

Fortunately, the same regions rich in coal are also rich in shale gas, courtesy of the Marcellus Shale formation. Coal doesn’t only mean disaster for our miners, but for air we breathe. Particulate matter from coal causes asthma, black lung disease and lung cancer. We need to replace coal yesterday, but these so-called environmentalists are shooting themselves, and our planet, in the foot – and maybe the face.

But these activists will tell you that fracking contaminates your water. This is false. Hydraulic fracturing takes place below aquifers, thousands of feet below impenetrable, nonporous rock. Nothing used in fracking ends up in your drinking water. What about those pictures the movie directors show you, the ones where you can burn the water from the tap? If any natural gas well, using fracked or unfracked gas, is made without steel and cement casing, the well can leak natural gas. A properly made well will not leak. Put simply – there is no difference between a safe gas well using shale gas or conventional natural gas. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection report from 2010 stated quite clearly that, according to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Watershed Management, “no groundwater pollution or disruption of underground sources of drinking water have been attributed to hydraulic fracturing of deep gas formations.” That’s right – none.

Activists tell you that greenhouse gasses are worse in natural gas, and they’ll give you a very faulty study led by Cornell ecologist (not a climatologist) saying that greenhouse effects of natural gasses are worse than coal. In fact, when the Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory checked this ecologist’s numbers, they found that natural gas was “50 percent lower than average coal.” And that’s just the beginning of the faults with this particular study, which overestimated natural gas leakage by 10-, and sometimes 20-fold.

So why are they dissembling? Why are they hiding the numbers and the facts? Because their jobs are in danger. These people have all their time and money invested in the future of renewable energy, a future they believe will be accelerated if fuel prices are kept unnaturally high. While the Obama administration wastes money on Solyndras and other pipe dreams, people can’t afford to heat their homes or turn on the lights. I believe in the future of renewable energy, but that future can’t be built on lies, or on the frozen corpses of our nation’s poor.

The financial crisis and ensuing recession hit the Northeast particularly hard, and the hydraulic fracturing process has the potential to bring clean, inexpensive energy to millions of Americans who need it. And it can also bring jobs – the Democratic White House, no stranger to the environmental lobby, estimates that fracking could bring more than half a million jobs over the next decade. The next time you see a sign that reads “No Fracking,” translate into English – “No Jobs, No Heat, No Power – and No Future”