Anti-Frackers Are Undermining Environmental Progress
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By Regina Thompson
Fear-mongering has been the favored tactic of environmental activists in their zeal to defend local fracking bans.
In Colorado, for example, they recently claimed that allowing fracking would poison drinking water, pollute the air, and turn communities into toxic wastelands. Too bad for them that the Colorado Supreme Court didn't buckle under their pressure -- and just issued a unanimous decision to overturn local anti-fracking measures.
Don't expect green activists nationwide to give up on their crusade. Despite mountains of research showing that fracking is safe -- and the force behind plummeting greenhouse gas emissions -- they remain hell-bent in their efforts to misinform the public.
If anything, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, proves the success of the U.S. energy model. Recent advances have made it possible to recover natural gas deposits that were once unreachable.
The resulting shale gas boom has unlocked a 100-year supply of affordable energy and triggered a tectonic shift in the way we generate electricity. Natural gas is now the nation's leading source of electricity, helping to decrease greenhouse gas emissions to their lowest levels in almost 20 years.
Emissions are so low, in fact, that the United States has actually met and improved on the standards set out in the Kyoto Protocol -- despite never having signed the treaty. That's something many of our green-leaning allies have failed to achieve.
Environmentalists should be celebrating this green bonanza. After all, they once championed natural gas for exactly its cleaner-burning properties. In 2009 environmentalist Robert Kennedy, Jr. noted that "natural gas is an obvious bridge fuel to the 'new' energy economy."
But then alarmism won the day. Now the green camp forges ahead with "just say no" opposition to the U.S. energy model altogether.
A favorite accusation is that fracking contaminates groundwater. Never mind that fracking typically extracts gas from thousands of feet underground, well below the depths of a couple hundred feet where groundwater typically sits.
What's more, not a single instance of contamination has ever been documented.
It's not for lack of trying. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati spent three years investigating fracking's effects on state water supplies, only to conclude that "hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells ... does not contaminate ground water."
In May 2013, researchers at Duke University and the U.S. Geological Survey sampled 127 water wells in Arkansas, determining there was "no evidence of groundwater contamination from shale gas production."
And despite a five-year investigation into fracking critics' charges, the federal Environmental Protection Agency itself came up empty.
In sum, more than 1.2 million wells across the nation have been fracked -- and not a shred of evidence to support the anti-frackers' claims has turned up.
To be sure, drilling for natural gas is not a risk-free proposition. But government regulations and the industry's own internal checks ensure that U.S. energy exploration is safe.
We also should keep in mind the alternatives. When it comes to the environment, natural gas beats the alternatives. And it sure beats importing our energy from overseas, where regulatory standards are often lax and the money goes to support oppressive or unstable governments and their unfriendly leaders.
The U.S. energy model is working. Innovations like fracking have kept energy affordable while cutting carbon emissions to fight climate change. Americans should resist anti-fracking hysteria and see environmentalists' fear-based charges for what they are -- anti-energy policy unsupported by real science.
Regina Thomson is President of the Colorado Issues Coalition, a nonprofit addressing issues that are timely and important to the people of Colorado.
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