Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Is Fracking The Gateway To Energy Independence?

A well-researched article by Abby W. Schachter in Commentary makes a case for extracting natural gas by fracking, or hydraulic fracturing—a controversial process that  pumps a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals downward and sideways at high velocity. It fractures the rock and releases gas upwards to the surface. 
The normally dry experts from Citi wrote breathlessly in a recent study called “Energy 2020” that fracking portends nothing less than the “potential re-industrialization of the U.S. economy.” They concluded: “The cumulative impact of new production…and associated activity may increase real GDP by 2.0 to 3.3 percent.” A significant portion of the growth will come, they claimed, “directly from the output of new hydrocarbon production alone, while the rest is generated by multiplier effects as the surge in economic activity drives higher wealth, spending, consumption, and investment effects that ripple through the economy.”
Polls show that when presented with these facts, most Americans support the development of natural gas. At the same time, however, there is strong opposition to this energy opportunity coming from those for whom man-made climate change is of paramount concern. Among this group, extracting and consuming more fossil fuels, even relatively cleaner natural gas, will cause too much harm to the planet to be worth the economic benefit. The question facing policymakers today is which side of this argument will win the day: those who want to use the earth’s resources to achieve greater human progress or those who want to protect the earth from that progress.
This accurately describes the battle today, and environmentalists have some valid concerns [Gasland by Josh Fox], which ought not to be dismissed so easily. Yet the energy clock is ticking. I and many others have written about the importance of achieving energy independence sooner than later. Think of the all the good it would do, including creating an feeling of optimism, improving the economy, and creating jobs, lots of them.

It would also have the added effect of reducing the power that unstable regimes in the Middle East hold, all because they happen to be in a region that is awash in petroleum. It would also put a damper on state-sponsored terrorism. This is a national security issue, chiefly because billions of dollars a year of oil money eventually finds its way to finance international terrorism.

Given the volatile Middle East, and the necessity to achieve energy independence, it might be the right choice for Americans and Canadians to agree to a process that they do not fully understand. Understandably, this is both a political and scientific issue. It might well be that the benefits of fracking outweigh the risks.