NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Fracking More Eco-Friendly Then Originally Thought

October 9, 2015

Hydraulic fracturing has contributed to the recent decrease in natural gas prices, resulting in an average savings of $200 per year per household from 2007- 2013. Yet many are still concerned about this development in energy technology, specifically regarding air and water pollution and quality of life for communities near a fracking site. Do the economic benefits of the new energy source need to be mitigated to account for the environmental costs?

Common concerns regarding hydraulic fracturing include:

  • Methane Emissions: Electricity from natural gas has half the total greenhouse gas footprint of an equivalent amount of coal.
  • Air Quality: Areas surrounding fracking sites can, and have, experienced increased emissions but these incidences tend to be localized and do not cause the toxic reactions some have claimed.
  • Water Quality: Direct contamination of water supplies are unlikely as the fracking chemicals would need to migrate up through thousands of feet of solid rock to pollute groundwater supplies which are typically only a few hundred feet below the surface. Only 10 cases out of 250,000 were noted in an EPA study where contamination was related to drilling or construction of oil and gas wells.
  • Water Availability: Hydraulic fracturing operations use less than 1 percent of the local fresh water and actually saves water as coal steam turbine plants require 25-50 times more water than "fracking."

The energy boom of the recent years, led by hydraulic fracturing, has increased U.S. GDP by $283 billion.  With so much revenue at stake it is no surprise that the energy community is attempting to allay the fears of many environmentally minded.  Every energy source has advantages and drawbacks, but perhaps those drawbacks associated with "fracking" are fewer than first imagined.

Source: Josiah Neeley, "The Green Side of Fracking," R Street Institute, September 16, 2015.

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