by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique to remove natural gas and oil from shale formations, has been under withering assault from environmental groups for much of the last decade. Fracking has been blamed for contamination of drinking water, air pollution, earthquakes, water shortages, global warming, radiation discharge, and even cancer. But it appears that environmentalists have lost the battle against fracking.
Environmental groups have been almost unanimously opposed to hydraulic fracturing. Greenpeace and the Sierra Club favor outright bans, and other organizations call for tight controls on the process. According to the Sierra Club website, “‘Fracking,’ a violent process that dislodges gas deposits from shale rock formations, is known to contaminate drinking water, pollute the air, and cause earthquakes. If drillers can’t extract natural gas without destroying landscapes and endangering the health of families, then we should not drill for natural gas.”
But the case against hydraulic fracturing is weak. Shale is typically fractured at depths greater than 5,000 feet, with thousands of feet of rock between the fractured area and the water table, which is located near the surface. When properly designed, fracking wells are lined with multiple layers of steel and cement casing to prevent leakage of water and natural gas into the local water supply. Approximately one million wells have been hydraulically fractured over the last six decades without cases of water contamination. During Congressional testimony in 2011, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson stated, “I am not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water, although there are investigations ongoing.”
Earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing appear to be minimal. Only a handful of micro quakes have been linked to fractured wells. None of these quakes have caused damage and most are too weak to feel. Nor is there evidence to show that fracking poses greater a greater threat from air pollution, radiation discharge, or cancer than agriculture, other mining, or other common industrial processes. …
… Arguments about pollution of drinking water, earthquakes, water usage, radiation, and cancer appear to be a smoke screen to protect renewable energy, the sacred cow of the environmental movement. Natural gas from hydraulic fracturing is a direct threat to the wind and solar industry.