NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Hydraulic Fracturing: Critical for Energy Production, Jobs and Economic Growth

September 13, 2012

Hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") is a method of extracting oil, natural gas, geothermal energy and even water that is trapped in deep rock formations. This is done by injecting a fluid deep in the ground to fracture the rock formation and allow access to resources, says Nicolas Loris, the Herbert and Joyce Morgan fellow at the Heritage Foundation

Fracking has created new opportunities for growth in the energy sector, which has broader effects on the whole economy.

  • In 2010, the consumer surplus for shale gas production was over $100 billion.
  • In the past 60 years, fracking has retrieved 7 billion barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
  • To put this in perspective, 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas is enough to heat 15 million homes for one year.
  • The abundance of natural gas also attracts business to the United States. For example, Royal Dutch Shell announced plans to build a $2 billion plant in Pennsylvania that would create 10,000 new construction jobs and thousands of other permanent jobs.

Opponents have shrouded the benefits of fracking with myths about the effects on the environment:

  • Myth 1: Fracking threatens underground water and has led to contamination of drinking water.
  • Myth 2: The chemicals used in fracking are foreign chemicals that the industry hides from the public.
  • Myth 3: Wastewater from fracking is dangerous and unregulated.
  • Myth 4: Fracking causes earthquakes.

The fact is that hydraulic fracturing is very safe and has not been responsible for what opponents have claimed. Indeed, there are numerous state regulations that make sure that fracking is safe to both people and the environment.

However, these myths have accomplished their goal in inviting onerous federal regulations. Instead, the federal government should do the following:

  • First, prevent any federal agency from adding new regulations.
  • Second, prevent federal regulators from using any statute to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, as it would drive up energy costs.
  • Finally, reaffirm the states' authority in regulating fracking, as they have successfully done.

Source: Nicolas Loris, "Hydraulic Fracturing: Critical for Energy Production, Jobs, and Economic Growth," Heritage Foundation, August 28, 2012.


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