Saturday, June 6, 2015

Fracking's Effect on Drinking Water: Nil

The debate over fracking is not likely to end anytime soon, but the Obama administration's EPA has just dealt a hard blow to the opponents of the process by releasing a report that finds that fracking has no significant impact on drinking water quality. According to the report:
We [the EPA] did not find evidence that these [fracking] mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States. Of the potential mechanisms identified in this report, we found specific instances where one or more of these mechanisms led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells. The cases occurred during both routine activities and accidents and have resulted in impacts to surface or ground water....

The number of identified cases where drinking water resources were impacted are small relative to the number of hydraulically fractured wells. This could reflect a rarity of effects on drinking water resources, or may be an underestimate as a result of several factors.
The Pennsylvania EPA came to similar conclusions a few years ago. If the EPA in this administration can't find a serious problem with fracking it should give confidence to everyone of good will on both sides of the issue that fracking is a safe way to extract energy from the ground. Nevertheless, the battle will doubtless continue because just as the Keystone Pipeline isn't the real target of the more fanatical environmentalists, fracking, in my opinion, isn't what those environmentalists are out to stop. Their real goal is the elimination of the use of fossil fuels altogether, and their opposition to fracking is based, again in my opinion, on the fact that the process undermines a couple of their chief arguments.

Many environmentalists claim, for instance, that fossil fuels are becoming scarce so we need to move to alternative sources of energy, but the fracking process has opened up vast new reserves of oil and gas that could last until the end of the century. They also claim that dependence on foreign oil makes us vulnerable to the instabilities in the Middle East and north Africa, but fracking is rapidly making us energy independent of these troubled regions. Thirdly, environmentalists object to fossil fuels because they're dirty to produce and dirty to consume, but fracking is relatively clean and so is the natural gas that it produces.

As time goes on we'll probably see fewer demonstrations like this one and more people, especially the poor who won't have to pay so much for everything they buy, singing the praises of fracking technology: