Fracking is a dirty word in my circle of friends and I admit, I am as eager as they are to see this country decouple from fossil fuels. But when Hillary Clinton was criticized for taking money from the fracking industry, a donation amounting to less than 1% of total contributions, I had to ask myself how much I really knew about the subject. Or, was I one of those “fools” Benjamin Franklin described who was willing to criticize, complain and condemn without much knowledge? (Franklin quote from The Week, April 15, 2016, pg. 17.)
Checking the Environmental Protection Agency’s massive report on the subject, I discovered that, contrary to my previously held opinion, fracking has little impact on the nation’s drinking water. (Click) Toward the end of chapter 3 is a summary which explains 70% of the nation gets its water from open sources like lakes or rivers or dams and that wells tested within a mile of fracking sites showed no signs of contamination.
Does that mean we should give fracking our blessing? Well, no. A fossil fuel is a fossil fuel and damages the environment. But we can’t turn off our oil dependence like a light switch. We haven’t enough environmentally friendly alternatives to rely on. In the interim, fracking offers some positives as Gary Senovitz observes in The New York Times. (“A liberal case for fracking,” Gary Senovitz, excerpted from The New York Times, The Week, April 22, 2016 pg. 14.) Fracking reduces our dependence on foreign oil. It lowers the prices of gas, which is a bonus to lower and middle income families. It reduces the nation’s use of coal which is among the most a highly polluting sources of energy on the planet. That our reduced demand for the commodity plays havoc with the economies of unfriendly nations like Russia and Venezuela is a bonus. So, looking at the picture as a whole, fracking has its positives.
Agreed, fracking is no long term solution to our energy problems. But after reading Section 3 of the EPA’s report and arguments pro and con, I’ve come to believe a person can love the planet yet tolerate a little temporary fracking.