Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is commonly known, has been at the heart of America’s energy boom and drive for energy independence. The process injects fluids under pressure into porous rock that comprises vast shale formations that reside under much of the continental U.S. The rock fractures under the pressure, releasing the oil and natural gas trapped inside, which is extracted to heat America’s homes, fuel its cars, and run its factories.
Not only has the process created jobs, put downward pressure on energy prices, and reduced our dependence on foreign energy, it also has helped the environment. Natural gas is the cleanest of fossil fuels and its increasing abundance thanks to fracking is largely responsible for reducing so-called greenhouse gas emissions beyond the environmentalists’ wildest dreams.
You would never know it from the anti-fracking claims of greenies, who blame it for everything from tainted drinking water to earthquakes, with Hollywood chiming in with films showing that fracking, by releasing gas trapped in shale, makes tap water flammable. Now a federal judge has overturned a $4.2 million jury award granted to plaintiffs claiming harm from fracking, noting that the claims on which the suit was based are guesswork based on questionable science. As the Hill reports:
Judge Martin Carlson wrote that the evidence presented at last year’s jury trial by a pair of families in Dimock, Pa., “was spare, sometimes contradictory, frequently rebutted by other scientific expert testimony, and relied in some measure upon tenuous inferences.”
He said there were multiple “weaknesses” in the case, along with “serious and troubling irregularities in the testimony and presentation of the plaintiffs’ case -- including repeated and regrettable missteps by counsel in the jury’s presence,” necessitating that Carlson vacate the jury award against Cabot Oil and Gas Co.
At the height of the fracking revolution, the movie Promised Land was made, citing the false claims of anti-fracking opponents as gospel and exploiting their unfounded fears fanned by devotees of junk science. It is science fiction, particularly the scene where water is set on fire. As Investor’s Business Dailyeditorialized:
As the U.S. changes the balance of power by exporting some of its abundant natural gas resources, a Hollywood propaganda film debuts claiming the technology making it possible will poison America's small towns.
'Promised Land," a film that does nothing to alter Hollywood's stereotype of businessmen, particularly energy industry executives, as greedy plunderers of the planet, opens this week in selected theatres….
As documentary filmmaker Phelim McAleer, who is working on his own documentary, "FrackNation", has pointed out, the inspiration for the film was a spate of news reports about alleged ground water contamination from fracking wells in Dimock, Pa. "Promised Land" is set in rural Pennsylvania….
The film depends on junk science for its story line. The mixture used to fracture shale is in fact a benign blend of 90% water, 9.5% sand and 0.5% chemicals such as the sodium chloride of table salt and the citric acid of the orange juice you had for breakfast.
Shale formations in which fracking is employed are thousands of feet deep. Drinking water aquifers are generally only 100 feet deep. There is a lot of solid rock between them.
A scene in the movie shows a character setting fire to tap water.
The inspiration for that was a video produced by Wolf Eagle Environmental Engineers in Texas that showed a flaming house water pipe and claimed a gas company had polluted the water. But Texas State District Judge Trey Loftin ruled in a lawsuit that the video was a fraud and that Wolf Eagle had connected the house gas pipe to a hose and then lit the water.
The film, financed by Arab oil interests linked to OPEC, which fears America’s energy liberation, is similar to another cartoonish depiction of fracking’s alleged horrors, Gasland. Fortunately for America’s energy and economic future, real science is triumphing over junk science in the courts, in the economy, and in the halls of political power The Trump administration has recently and rightly decided to repeal an Obama administration rule on fracking. According to The Hill:
The Trump administration is planning to repeal former President Barack Obama’s landmark 2015 rule setting standards for hydraulic fracturing on federal land.
Justice Department lawyers revealed the decision late Wednesday in a filing with the Denver-based Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, where the federal government under had been fighting against the oil and natural gas industry and conservative states to get the rule reinstated….
The rule set standards in three areas for federal-land fracking: integrity of well casing, storage of waste fluids and public disclosure of the chemicals used.
It was written in part to respond to suspicion and anger from the public regarding the controversial oil and gas extraction technique, which has grown exponentially and been behind the boom in domestic energy production and resulting low prices.
The rule was designed to burden the oil industry with excessive reporting requirements which would allow the EPA to delay and derail new exploration and drilling. It was designed to kill fracking, a key part of America’s energy resurgence, based on unfounded environmentalist fears. As Investor’s Business Daily commented on the Obama fracking rule enacted in 2015:
When the Obama administration recently released its new regulations on fracking -- regulations that it said were needed to keep up with the advance and success of the decades-old technology to meet public safety needs -- the Independent Petroleum Association of America and Western Energy Alliance immediately filed suit, saying that the new regs were based on "unsubstantiated concerns" that lacked any scientific basis.
"Hydraulic fracturing has been conducted safely and responsibly in the United States for over 60 years," noted IPAA president Barry Russell, who also pointed out the impact of the new regulations on job and economic growth. Fracking has produced an oil and natural gas boom, making them energy sources of the future, not the past.
The Obama administration doesn't like fracking and wishes that fracking would just go away so it can go on subsidizing the Solyndras of the world. But Russell is right: Fracking is safe, and the new study proves that any concerns are politically motivated fear-mongering.
Published online in late March in Environmental Science and Technology, the study focused on 11,309 drinking wells in northeastern Pennsylvania. It found that background levels of methane in well water are unrelated to the location of oil and gas wells drilled using fracking technology….
Fracking simply doesn’t threaten our drinking water. Nor does it cause earthquakes, which became a minor issue in the 2016 election thanks to fringe presidential candidate Jill Stein. The earth moved for environmental extremists when a 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck Oklahoma. As soon as the first aftershock, the greenies were in full voice blaming fracking, the technology that has fueled America’s oil and natural gas boom.
Oklahoma state regulators ordered 37 disposal wells used by frackers shut downand Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein tweeted:
Fracking causes polluted drinking water + earthquakes. The #GreenNewDeal comes with none of these side effects, Oklahoma. #BanFracking
Hydraulic fracturing, the technical term, does not cause earthquakes nor has there ever been evidence that it contaminates drinking water. Fracking has been used in oil and gas production in Oklahoma since 1949 and now, more than six decades later, the chicken littles of the left are claiming it now causes major destructive earthquakes?
Disposal wells do sometimes disturb the earth, but does not cause major destructive earthquakes, according to a study by the National Research Council, part of the National Academies of Science:
Does hydraulic fracturing -- the process of forcing water, sand and a few chemicals down the bore hole and into shale formations -- cause earthquakes? The National Research Council (NRC), part of the National Academies of Science, says the answer to that would be “no, fracking does not cause earthquakes.” That’s according to a new study just released by the NRC titled “Induced Seismicity Potential in Energy Technologies”….
The study found that out of a sample size of 35,000 oil and gas wells that have been horizontally fracked, earthquakes have been detected -- get ready -- in one instance. One. Which is statistically dead zero.
But what about those earthquakes in Ohio? And the ones down in Arkansas? That was from fracking, right? No, it wasn’t. It was from injecting wastewater from Marcellus drilling deep underground into what are called injection wells -- a method of disposing leftover fracking water. There are over 30,000 active injection wells in the United States. When an injection well is located near or over a fault and fluid is forced down into the well and the fluid leaks into the fault, guess what happens? An earthquake. According to the NRC study how many earthquakes have resulted from those 30,000 injection wells? Eight. Once again, statistically zero.
It is fracking that has produced a boom in the production of natural gas, a fossil fuel, that has produced a significant reduction in the U.S. of so-called “greenhouse gases”. As the Washington Times reported:
White House senior advisor Brian Deese cheered the falling carbon dioxide levels… without mentioning the outsize role played by natural gas, as the cleaner-burning fuel increasingly overtakes coal in electricity generation.
“For those of you who are not breathlessly following the most recent data that has come out, I would note recent data that we’ve seen suggests or finds that for the first half of 2016, energy sector emissions in the United States are actually down 6 percent from last year, and 15 percent from 2005,” said Mr. Deese. “And they’re at their lowest level in nearly 20 years.”
He said nothing about the U.S. natural gas boom, an omission that critics say has become par for the course as the Obama administration highlights renewable energy and emissions restrictions without acknowledging the role of fracking in natural gas extraction.
“To add dishonesty to injury, his administration is bragging about the reduced CO2 emissions of [the] U.S. industry without crediting the fracking for natural gas, a fossil fuel, that largely caused it,” said Alex Epstein, author of the book “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.”
Fracking itself is in fact saving the environment by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases the greenies hate. It does not slice and dice birds en masse, including endangered species, like wind turbines, nor does it fry them to a crisp like solar panel farms have done. And it does not cause major disastrous earthquakes.
Fracking is causing an energy boom that is key to America’s economic and job growth. Thanks to Trump’s repeal of this and other unnecessary energy rules, America’s drillers are free to do what they do best. Drill, baby drill.
Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared inInvestor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the ChicagoSun-Times among other publications.