The Leaflet: Fracking Creates Abundant and Affordable Energy, Not Flammable Water

Published May 24, 2018

You may remember heavily promoted ads for Gasland, a 2010 anti-fracking documentary, showing a Colorado man recoiling from a fireball that was ignited when he held a lighter to water spouting from his faucet. According to Gasland, the fire was proof of the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking.” What that famous film purposefully failed to reveal, however, was that the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission determined in 2008 the man’s drinking water had naturally elevated concentrations of methane, independent of fracking activity.

Since Gasland made headlines, much research has been conducted showing the benefits and relative safety of fracking, including a new study that throws water on the long-burning, oft-repeated claim by environmental activists that hydraulic fracturing activity contaminates drinking water located in or near shale gas regions.

In this groundbreaking study, University of Cincinnati researchers amassed four years’ worth of groundwater measurements in the Utica Shale region of Appalachian Ohio. The study’s authors report from 2012 to 2015, there were substantial increases in shale gas development in the Utica region. In Carroll County, where the majority of data was collected, the number of fracking permits increased more than tenfold, from 115 permits in January 2012 to 1,600 permits in February 2015. Since 2011, more than 2,000 horizontal wells were drilled in this region, which contains a rural population that relies mostly on groundwater wells for drinking water.

Researchers measured dissolved methane (CH4) concentrations, pH levels, and electrical conductivity in several shallow groundwater wells. Contrary to what the researchers hypothesized (and what environmentalists, Hollywood, and the mainstream media continually espouse), concentrations of methane in regularly monitored groundwater wells did not increase despite there being a large increase in shale gas production over the study period. Moreover, CH4 concentration in several wells decreased, and CH4 concentrations did not increase in the groundwater located within a mile of the studied active shale gas wells.

Researchers posit natural variability and occurrences of methane in groundwater are unconnected to fracking activity. As with methane concentration, electrical conductivity and pH levels did not change significantly in groundwater wells, including those closest to shale gas wells.

Other studies have drawn similar conclusions, including a multi-million-dollar, six-year study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And ample reports demonstrate the positive effects of additional oil and gas production, such as income growth, job creation, and lower energy prices.

LNG Allies, a nonprofit trade group, recently calculated the economic benefits of U.S. liquid natural gas (LNG) exports spurred by increased fracking production. The group found the cumulative direct, indirect, and induced value added from LNG exports will be between $716 billion and $1.3 trillion from 2013 to 2050 and will foster 2 million to 3.9 million job-years of direct, indirect, and induced labor over the same period. An additional 5.3 million to 11.6 million job-years can be expected through 2050 resulting from growth in natural gas liquefaction plants.

Heartland Policy Analyst Tim Benson concludes lawmakers can and should do more to facilitate energy production. Benson argues by unleashing ample domestic energy resources, the United States will become energy-independent, and all Americans will benefit from steady and affordable energy.

“The oil and natural gas hydraulic fracturing has enabled us to unearth and use are cost-effective and abundant, and they can ensure the United States is the world’s largest energy producer well beyond the 21st century,” Benson wrote. “Policymakers should make sure not to put unnecessary and harmful regulatory burdens on industries such as the natural gas and oil industries, which are safe, responsible, and have had an enormous positive impact on the economy at the macro and micro levels.”


What We’re Working On

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Energy & Environment
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From Our Free-Market Friends
Asset Forfeiture Reform in Rhode Island
The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity proposes a series of reforms the state’s General Assembly should impose to curb law enforcement agencies’ unnecessary and unfair property seizures from criminal suspects. Under current Rhode Island law, mere suspicion of criminal activity is grounds to have your private property forfeited to the state. Taking personal property in this draconian manner only encourages law enforcement to seize as much as they can, whenever they can. Recommended reforms include prohibiting local governments from asset forfeiture profiteering, increasing transparency and oversight, and providing prompt, streamlined legal procedures for innocent victims to reclaim their property.


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