Flaming tap water. Trembling earthquakes. Toxic chemicals seeping into reservoirs. Pollution and black smoke spewing into the atmosphere. These are a few images that come to mind for many regarding the practice of horizontal drilling for oil and natural gas, more commonly known as fracking.
“How could anyone support a practice so destructive to the environment and public health?” say environmentalists and politicians. Several 2020 candidates agree: Senator Bernie Sanders announced a total ban on fracking early on in his campaign. Former Vice President Joe Biden recently called for sweeping restrictions on the practice. Yet, despite all the debate and negative press around the practice, the benefits of fracking are seldom talked about. As it turns out, there are many.
To start, the natural gas & oil industry supports over 10 million jobs, composing over 6% of our workforce. Here in California, fracking adds over $119 billion. Nationally, it adds $1.3 trillion to our GDP. That’s money that can go towards better roads, schools, and infrastructure. That money isn’t landing in the pockets of wealthy oil tycoons: it’s landing in the hands of workers.
According to the White House Council of Economic Advisors, it means savings of $2,500 for a family of four per year. With an economy recently shaken by COVID-19, workers and their families are in need of economic assistance. Banning a practice that provides thousands of dollars of savings to the average family and employs millions is not what the American people want or need.
In addition, the benefits of fracking go straight back into our communities, whereas the benefits of solar and renewable energy go to Chinese rare earth metal companies, to never circulate in our local economies again.
Moreover, fracking is our best option for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC estimates that warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions must be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to prevent the most catastrophic effects of the changing climate. Luckily, the fracking of natural gas is responsible for some of the largest decreases in carbon emissions.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration found that 27.4% of energy generation in the US comes from coal, which can be completely replaced by natural gas to quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the EIA says that the U.S. has achieved 861 million metric tons of CO2 reductions since 2005 by increasing natural gas consumption 25 percent. Globally, they estimate that global energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 6,040 million metric tons (21%) since 2005.
As natural gas consumption grew, CO2 emissions decreased and GDP continued to soar
While technologies such as solar and wind may work for places like California where the weather is consistent, it is impractical to use them to power 100% of America’s energy grid. After all, with battery technology still struggling to make significant improvements, what is going to power the grid at night or when the wind doesn’t blow? It is abundantly clear that the best, cheapest, and fastest way to reduce our emissions and build a sustainable grid is to replace coal plants with natural gas plants through the power of fracking.
Moreover, fracking gives America energy independence, meaning we are no longer reliant on fuel from other countries.
In the past, nations such as Russia and Iran controlled the global oil trade, creating a grave threat to our national security. For example, in 1973, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries placed an oil embargo on nations perceived as supporting Israel during the Yom Kippur War, including the United States. The embargo created stagflation, where high unemployment coincided with high inflation, which in turn led to further economic destruction.
A crisis on par to the oil crisis in the 70s would not be possible today, as the United States is 100% energy independent thanks to fracking. The goals of Iran, Russia, and increasingly powerful China have been severely hampered by this strategic advantage.
In conclusion, is it truly worth it to outlaw millions of jobs, destroy many of our communities and their environments, and allow dictatorships to gain back their influence just to prevent the occasional earthquake, only 2% of which are caused by fracking itself? I think not: and millions of American workers, students, and people all around the globe who will feel the consequences of climate change agree.