By Kevin Mooney — With President Obama back in the White House next year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to roll out a new regulation to control drilling techniques used to access natural gas. Even so, the expected surge in U.S. oil production will likely outpace political paybacks to green groups that can be uprooted over time.
The International Energy Agency (IEA), the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Counties (OPEC) and U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) all anticipate the U.S. becoming less dependent on foreign oil sources as the natural gas revolution takes hold. Current forecasts show that the U.S. could overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer by 2020.
At issue is a drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), that makes use of pressurized water and chemicals to break open rocks to access natural gas. Green groups have worked successfully to block industry from development natural gas resources in New York by arguing that fracking could lead to groundwater contamination. In 2010, former Gov. David Patterson issued an executive order that prevents new drilling permits from being issued until after the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issues a new impact statement. With the public comment period now over, the DEC is expected to release an updated impact statement and a regulatory plan before the end of 2012.
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a former chief economist with the U.S. Department of Labor, has a recommendation.
“For fiscal health, New York should emulate Pennsylvania and develop its natural gas reserves,” she suggests. “If New York were to permit fracking, the Empire State would see new jobs, a surge of economic activity, and more tax revenues.”
At a time when New York’s budget deficit exceeds $8 billion, the economic rationale for natural gas development cannot be dismissed. But it is possible to cajole politicians and frighten the public on basis of junk science. The environmental organizations opposed to fracking incessantly claim that it opens the way to water contamination. Here are some key facts:
In a regulatory statement, the Texas Railroad Commission said “Though hydraulic fracturing has been used for over 60 years in Texas, our Railroad Commission records do not reflect a single documented surface or groundwater contamination case associated with hydraulic fracturing.
In Pennsylvania, Scott Perry, director of the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Oil Management has told members of the press “There has never been any evidence of fracking ever causing direct contamination of fresh groundwater in Pennsylvania or anywhere else.”
The major claims included in the anti-fracking documentary “Gasland” aimed at shutting have also been debunked by scientists and researchers.
But here’s the kicker. The major studies funded by the environmental activists through the left-leaning Park Foundation could not find any evidence that fracking causes water contamination.
A series of papers from researchers at Duke University, for example, did not find any fracturing fluids in water wells. “The occurrences of saline water do not correlate with the location of shale-gas wells and are consistent with reported data before rapid shale-gas development in the region,” one of the latest reports concludes. Duke University receives funding from the Park Foundation, based in New York, which is also a major backer of the environmental movement.
Going forward, public officials should not allow junk science to carry the day when so much is at stake for average families, and small-sized businesses that cannot compete against well-funded green activists.
The Marcellus Shale cuts across New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. It could potentially to help transform the world’s energy portfolio in manner that benefits America’s interest over the long-term. But this will require public policy decisions that rooted in sound science not unsubstantiated alarmism.
Kevin Mooney is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinMooneyDC.