by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It has been 10 years since the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies reversed the United States’ position from that of energy scarcity to energy abundance. This has changed the economy for the long haul and in the process thrust the term “fracking” into the mainstream American lexicon.
During this time, “keep it in the ground” anti-fracking activists have desperately tried to diminish fracking’s many benefits by exploiting its clickbait-inducing moniker. They have claimed incessantly that the process causes just about every environmental and health calamity imaginable. Most recently, shale opponents have even tried to link fracking to depression, obesity and sexually transmitted diseases.
But amid muddied waters created by these unfounded and oftentimes ridiculous assertions, a sober evaluation of a decade’s worth of scientific data clearly reveals that fracking’s benefits have far outweighed its risks. And those risks have been routinely exaggerated or flat out made up by shale opponents.
The most obviously false claim has been that fracking makes climate change worse. To the contrary, a 2014 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment found that fracking is an “important reason for reduction of [greenhouse gas] emissions in the United States.”
Increased natural gas use, made possible by fracking and the resulting low prices, is the primary reason the United States has reduced carbon emissions by 13 percent since 2008, more than any other nation in the world so far this century on a raw tonnage basis. At the same time, methane emissions from natural gas systems, which activists have falsely claimed wipe out natural gas’ climate benefits, have also declined since 2008, even as oil and natural gas production has skyrocketed.