The United States benefited enormously from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in 2015; but media outlets have mostly focused on headlines about earthquakes and aquifer pollution — neither of which have sufficient evidence to draw conclusions.
From foreign policy to cheap domestic energy and even booming job growth, here are five key stories the media seems to have missed about fracking in 2015.
1: Fracking Got America Off Russian Oil And Gas In 2015, Weakening Putin Immensely
American fracking in 2015 created a “perfect economic storm” of historically cheap oil and natural gas, which greatly weakened Putin’s Russia. America surpassed Russia’s production earlier this year as as the world’s largest and fastest-growing producer of oil and natural gas last year.
As recently as 2013, crude oil accounted for 68 percent of total Russian export revenues, according to the Energy Information Administration. and low prices mean less revenue to fund the country’s domestic and foreign policy agenda.
The International Monetary Fund predicts that Russia’s economy will shrink 3.4 percent in 2015, the most of any major emerging market. The Russian central bank has previously predicted that if oil prices remain near $40 dollars a barrel, the economy could contract by up to 6 percent. Even the Russian government is worried, cutting its growth forecast for 2015 and predicting that the economy will fall into recession.
2: Fracking Prevented Global Warming By Massively Reducing U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions
Fracking, not government green policies, caused carbon dioxide emissions to drop sharply in 47 states and Washington, D.C. in 2015, according to both Scientific American and the Energy Information Administration.
Total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by 1,022 million tons, making them significantly lower than their peak in 2007.
Studies show that fracking for natural gas is responsible for almost 20 percent of the drop in carbon dioxide emissions, while solar power is responsible for a mere 1 percent of the decline. For every ton of carbon dioxide cut by solar power, fracking cuts 13 tons.
“The transition from coal to natural gas for electricity generation has probably been the single largest contributor to the … largely unexpected decline in U.S. CO2 emissions,” said the research organization Berkeley Earth, concurring with more formal assessments from the Department of Energy.
The U.S. has reduced greenhouse gas emissions more than any other country, a fact which even The Sierra Club acknowledges, though they refuse to attribute the decline in emissions to natural gas, which they oppose politically.
3: Fracking Gave America HUGE Reserves Of Oil And Natural Gas
American oil and natural gas reserves are at their highest levels since 1972. These huge increases are directly attributable to exploitation of tight oil formations and shale natural gas via fracking.
American reserves of crude oil and natural gas have risen for six consecutive years despite the U.S. producing more oil and natural gas than any other country. Oil production last year was 80 percent higher than it was in 2008. The United States produced an average of about 9.3 million barrels of crude oil per day in June.
America even controls the world’s largest untapped oil reserve, the Green River Formation in Colorado. This formation alone contains up to 3 trillion barrels of untapped oil shale, half of which may be recoverable. That’s five and a half times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. This single geologic formation could contain more oil than the rest of the world’s proven reserves combined.
The increase in reserve levels is illustrated in this Energy Information Administration graph:
“From our assessment, we conclude there are above and below ground mechanisms by which hydraulic fracturing activities have the potential to impact drinking water resources. We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States,” stated a 5 year study on the impacts of fracking published by the Environmental Protection Agency in June 2015.
Another 2015 study, this one from Yale University, which was published in the highly prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, concluded, “[there is] no evidence of association with deeper brines or long-range migration of these compounds to the shallow aquifers.” The study, the largest of its kind, sampled 64 private water wells near fracking sites to determine if they could be contaminated by fracking fluids. The Yale researchers found essentially no contamination in well water, and the amounts they did detect were hundreds or thousands of times smaller than can be detected by commercial labs.
“[The chemicals] are likely not a threat to human health,” said Brian Drollette, the Yale study’s first author, who is a chemical and environmental engineering graduate student.
Environmentalists have long opposed fracking out of alleged concerns for the safety of drinking water.
They responded to these studies with total denial, saying that “millions of Americans know that fracking contaminates groundwater and for the EPA to report any differently only proves that the greatest contamination from the industry comes from its influence and ownership of our government.” The Sierra Club still claims that “fracking has contaminated the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of Americans.”
5: Fracking Was Proven Not To Cause Damaging Earthquakes (Again)
The scientific consensus has long been that fracking doesn’t cause damaging earthquakes … but media and environmental groups don’t like that particular scientific consensus and have decided to ignore it. 2015 made that a lot harder.
In May of 2015, Dr. Matthew Hornback, a professor of geophysics at Southern Methodist University, when asked if fracking causes significant earthquakes, told lawmakers, “[w]e’re not talking at all about fracking. In fact, it’s been driving us crazy, frankly, that people keep using it in the press.”
Fracking earthquake myths from environmentalists are so widespread that the United States Geological Survey (USGS) actually maintains a “Myths and Misconceptions” section of its website to debunk them.
“Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as ‘fracking’, does not appear to be linked to the increased rate of magnitude 3 and larger earthquakes” states the USGS.
Earthquakes are measured on a logarithmic scale, and the difference between whole numbers on the scale is huge. A 9.0 quake can devastate a country, while a 3.0 quake generally cannot be felt. An earthquake that measures 3.0 on the Richter scale releases 31 times the energy of a 2.0 quake and has a shaking amplitude 10 times smaller than that of a 3.0 quake.
The kind of earthquake that waste-water disposal from fracking could potentially cause are several orders of magnitude smaller than the kind of earthquakes that can do any damage. Additionally, well under 1 percent of wastewater injection wells are linked to earthquakes of any kind.
Despite the many benefits of fracking, you can expect media and environmental groups in 2016 to continue blaming the process for flaming tap-water, poverty, income inequality, a new housing crisis, and even low sperm counts… even though such objections have been all conclusively debunked by real science.
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