Opinion

Can We Shut Up About Fracking Now?

Who said progressives aren’t anti-science? A study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is casting serious doubt on one of the environmental movement’s favorite talking points — namely, that fracking contaminates drinking water. The report, conducted by five professors from renowned universities such as Duke, Dartmouth, and Stanford, concluded that a number of water contaminations near fracking sites were most likely caused by well leaks — not fracking itself.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” for short, is a well stimulation technique that has been standard practice in the energy industry for over sixty years. The way it works is drillers pump a mixture of mostly water onto rocks deep below the earth’s surface to release trapped oil and gas.

Although this process is nothing new, environmentalists have been up in arms over the past decade for the energy industry’s shift to horizontal drilling — fracking deep below water reserves to extract oil and gas that have historically been hard to get. The outcry reached a fever pitch in the summer of 2013 when an EPA report suggested that the technique could be responsible for contaminated water sites in western Pennsylvania.

Monday’s study quells such fears. The report, which investigated over 130 fracking sites in Pennsylvania and Texas, found fracking to be responsible for no leaks whatsoever. Instead, the underlying culprit has always been faulty cement or tubing.

In fact, the very idea that the technique of fracking could contaminate water should seem ridiculous in the first place. Most fracking occurs nearly two miles below aquifers, making the chance of seepage almost impossible.

Although the distinction between fracking’s technique and its faulty wells may seem arbitrary at first, it makes a world of difference. Like every other business sector, mistakes are occasionally made in the energy sector, and people who are affected by these mistakes have legal recourse to seek restitution in court.

However, environmentalists have falsely conflated the occasional faulty well associated with fracking with a faulty technique altogether, making wide-sweeping claims of the process being inherently flawed. As a result of their scaremongering, hundreds of American municipalities have banned fracking in 24 states. With the weight of evidence strongly pointing to fracking’s safety, these cities are missing out on a critical economic opportunity — all because of false science they have been fed by fringe activists.

Fracking has created nothing short of an energy revolution in the U.S., supporting up to 1.7 million jobs according to one industry estimate. States like North Dakota that have embraced it by facilitating friendly regulatory environments are experiencing a boom with low unemployment and soaring economic activity. In fact, the Peace Garden State currently has the lowest unemployment rate in the union at 2.8 percent as of July. Best of all, the benefits of fracking are not limited to the energy sector itself but spread across the entire economy as oilmen spend their money. To give one example, the starting wage at a McDonalds in Willston, North Dakota is $15.

Policy makers must learn to see through these lies and do what’s right for their local economy. With economic growth still lagging in the post-recession economy, fracking can give states a competitive edge and citizens the opportunities they deserve to thrive.