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Is Fracking’s Bad Reputation Justified?

Is Fracking’s Bad Reputation Justified?

It’s truly amazing how much fracking is mis-understood, especially to the degree that emotions run so wildly rampant. Take OPEC member, Algeria, for example. Two weeks ago, anti-fracking protesters stormed the walls of Halliburton’s compound there, burned tires in the roads, and had to be restrained with tear gas.

Over fracking.

When you contrast the public relations tactics used by the environmentalist movement opposed to fracking compared to the international oil and gas industry’s promotion of it, the latter pales in comparison. The environmentalists worldwide win on the messaging front, hands down.

In Germany for example, anti-frackers so demonized the entire fossil fuel industry over renewables that the country went all-in on wind and solar and started shutting down its nuclear plants. The result? Massive increases in energy costs and frequent blackouts. So problematic were the outages that the country had to turn to the most environmentally nasty of all energy sources, lignite, to bail them out. It still remains their number one source of power. Related: Texas: From Shale Boom To Water Revolution

Now, once adamantly opposed to fracking of any kind on German soil, the Government has cracked open the window for the possibility of regulated fracture stimulation for gas extraction. It is now debating allowing fracking at depths below about 9,000 feet, erasing a 5-year total moratorium.

In Great Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron has been advocating fracking, calling it “Good for the U.K.” Amidst steep opposition and protests, Cameron has thus far not been able to overcome the tide of public opposition.

Much of Europe shuddered ahead of this winter when gas flows through Ukraine pipelines became uncertain last summer, with threats by Vladamir Putin that supplies to Europe could be disrupted.

Nothing like the thought of no gas during a European winter to get you to re-thinking how bad fracking really is.

Whether it’s Europe, South America, Africa, or places like Denton, Texas, fracking has become polarizing. What is it about this relatively benign procedure, that happens approximately 18,000 times a year in America without incident, that causes such an uproar? Related: Harold Hamm Dismisses IEA Shale Prediction

Of particular note, is a 180-degree reversal by the Sierra Club in February, 2012 on its position on natural gas drilling. Over the course of several years, the Sierra Club had been secretly accepting contributions totaling $26 million dollars from Chesapeake Energy, mostly intended to fight coal. When the donations became public in early February that year, Sierra Club’s Executive Director, Michael Brune, had the first PR faux pas of his new administration. Abruptly, he said the organization no longer viewed natural gas as a “kinder, gentler” fuel because of the environmental risks threatened by fracking.

About face.

When it became obvious that this technology, at that time still only relatively a few years old, was going to change the energy landscape, environmental activists like the Sierra Club realized that as a bridge fuel, natural gas would potentially thwart development of renewables, which are the basis of their campaigns, and thus, their massive funding. Related: An Emerging Cure For Fracking Wastewater

According to the EIA, wind and solar combined will still only account for no more than 10% of power generation in the U.S. by 2040. Germany can certainly attest to the outcome of placing too much stock in renewables before their time.

The other consideration is economic development. Using places like North Dakota as an example of what can happen when fracking is deployed responsibly, the economic impact is unquestioned. Like most other OPEC member countries, Algeria is suffering greatly from the drop in oil prices, and is desperately trying to diversify its economy.

Yet, riots in the streets against the one very thing that feeds and fuels them, are based on the very effective impact of a long-standing smear campaign that values its own interests over the common good. If you were in Germany last summer with the lights out, and the air conditioning off, would you really be having a conversation about how terrible safe gas extraction is? If you were that passionate about it, the answer sadly might just be “yes.”

By Thomas Miller for Oilprice.com

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  • KJ Rich on March 15 2015 said:
    How are people supposed to weigh up the pros and cons with articles that do not even state the case for (or against) fracking in any meaningful way. You present no argument other than the scariness of not fracking, over-reliance on sustainable energy and smearing organisations like the Sierra Club. why don't you lay out what people's concerns are (water table contamination, water table depletion and resource conflict, seismic tremors etc.) and put forward an evidence-based response to them - our industry would be better served by this approach rather than mirroring back your own scare tactics as a counter to the environmental lobby's own horror stories.
  • Jack on March 16 2015 said:
    First, Thomas Miller's association with the Competitive Enterprise Institute (The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is a advocacy group based in Washington DC with long ties to tobacco disinformation campaigns and more recently to climate change denial.) makes his "opinion" very suspect--as though writing for this disinformation publication we not enough.

    Second, the only way to "prove" fracking is not harmful would be to release everyone who sued the drillers from the gag order, and make public the transcripts of the complaints and testimony.
  • Lucian on March 16 2015 said:
    All the facts about German are just Bs.
    No massive blackouts at all and most important: German summer arent hot, you'll barel find air cons. in Germany....
  • Carlo Ombello on March 16 2015 said:
    Truly appalling and delusional "fossil article" on an otherwise mature and very enjoyable website.

    The problem with fracking is clearly the absolute and permanent contamination of the soil, the use of astounding amounts of water, let alone the more talked-about seismic risks. Pollution pollution pollution!

    But the worst comes when Mr Miller rants against renewables... Basing himself on EIA projections that inevitably foresee a fossil future. Little does he know that, to make but one example, Italy now delivers almost 8% of its electricity from solar without any substantial impact on energy bills, contrary to what many claim. That the same is happening at lightning speed in many countries over the world and that despite his mantra, solar is taking over with a 30% year on year rate. Renewables mean unprecedented energy abundance and ever decreasing prices, the opposite of the dying fossil world. It's happening as we speak, now unsubsidised wind and solar are accelerating, oil & gas are stagnate at the first evidence of the decline in demand.

    Granted, natural gas is many times better than coal, which is already paying the price of its unviability. And where extracted conventionally, its environmental impact is quite limited. But portraying fantasies of a "safe fracking" world vs hidious tyre-burning environmentalists is rather medieval and short sighted.

    I would suggest Mr Miller to divest from his own company, if he would like to survive the energy storm and enjoy the new frackless world that is just around the corner. Lets make a bet Mr Miller, check out China's 2015's net new installed energy capacity a year from now, lets see where coal and frack will stand. But I'm ready to bet for 2020 too, which will be even more meaningful.
  • David Hrivnak on March 17 2015 said:
    One would think a blogger would check their facts. Not only is Germany ' s power grid twice as reliable as ours in the USA but it has been improving. http://energytransition.de/2014/08/german-grid-more-stable-in-2013/
  • L. Sten on March 17 2015 said:
    As a water manufacturing expert for over over 25 years the one thing that no one talk about in the fracking industry is corrosion of the carbon steel pipes. Every well will fail at some future date and release methane gas and residual chemicals in the soil, air and water which leaves the problems to future generations while we enjoy the gas/oil. There is also the problem with forced pooling whereby you can be forced to allow fracking on your property when you don't want it. Maybe that is why folks are upset with fracking.

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