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First in flight, last in frack: North Carolina may be late to hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), but that doesn’t mean it’ll be least. The issue already had promised to figure prominently in the upcoming short session of the North Carolina General Assembly, and that was before the governor’s apparent reversal of opinion and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ favorable preliminary report on the feasibility of safe hydraulic fracturing in North Carolina. Now the issue seems to be how quickly the state will move toward fracking.

In the meantime, expect to hear a great deal about its environmental impact. This week’s hearing in Chapel Hill allowed the procedure’s critics a good opportunity to make their best case, though serious, thoughtful concerns were often overshadowed by hysterical theatrics. Nevertheless, hydraulic fracturing’s proponents — from the industry to legislators on down to landowners and potential job holders — would be wise to pay attention to those concerns because of the fracking’s game-changing potential here in North Carolina.

As with any other change in public policy, the responsible way forward is to compare the costs and the benefits of a proposal. With respect to hydraulic fracturing, by all appearances its potential benefits are too great to ignore.

Hydraulic fracturing’s positive effects across numerous industries in North Dakota, home of the Bakken Shale Formation, is such that even McDonald’s offers a $300 signing bonus for new employees. The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney looked at one town in North Dakota, Williston, and wrote how a "Small-town oil boom makes blue-collar capitalists." The revolutionary nature of the fracking-led boom in natural gas and oil in the United States is even visible to observers across the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, the Obama EPA has seen fit to make it virtually impossible to open new coal-fired power plants, fully in keeping with the president’s campaign promises in opposition to affordable electricity (a sea change in Democratic presidential attitudes toward the importance of affordable electricity). The president hadn’t anticipated the fracturing revolution, however (though he will take credit for its job creation), but for North Carolina’s ratepayers in this new regulatory environment, it could be especially important that the state have access to another plentiful source of domestic energy.

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