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.
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.
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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