In these tough times of high unemployment, one of the bright spots in our economy has been the nation’s shale gas revolution. Thanks to developments in hydraulic fracturing technology, we are now able to extract more natural gas in shale formations under the earth from Texas to Ohio to Pennsylvania. Areas hit hard by the recession have seen unprecedented job growth in recent months because of increased drilling operations (see our post on the economic boom in Steubenville, OH).
Elizabeth Kolbert, in her New Yorker opinion piece, “Burning Love,” claims that the extraction of shale gas using hydraulic fracturing technology (or “fracking”) is fraught with environmental dangers and keeps us reliant on burning fossil fuels to produce most of our energy. Her article, however, only tells part of the story and plays into the reactionary rhetoric that we should either stop fracking entirely or postpone it until additional studies are completed.
The truth is that fracking is not some new and untested technology. We’ve been doing it for years – since 1947 – and most states have developed regulatory programs to ensure that the wells are constructed properly to protect drinking water supplies.
In addition, many companies voluntarily disclose the chemicals in their fracking fluid on a website called Frac Focus that allows the public to find a well and see what chemicals are used in the fracking process. The American Petroleum Institute (API) has also developed guidance documents which outline best management practices for well construction.Kolbert mentions little about the economic benefits of tapping into our nation’s rich shale gas resources. Many manufacturers have been able to take advantage of low natural gas costs to expand their businesses. For example, some chemical and fertilizer companies – which use natural gas as a feedstock in the manufacturing process – have been able to expand production in the United States, providing much-needed jobs for American workers.
A recent study from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), estimates that a realistic 25% growth in the shale gas industry would create over 400,000 jobs and provide $4.4 billion in federal, state and local revenue. A definite win-win situation as consumers would also enjoy even more reasonable natural gas prices.
While it is important to develop renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower, we should not shy away from traditional fossil fuels available in the United States such as coal and natural gas. These sources of energy are reliable and affordable, and their production supports high-paying American jobs. The shale gas revolution is here to stay, and U.S. economy is better off because of it.
Alicia Meads is director of energy and resources policy, National Association of Manufacturers.