Fracking Enthusiasts are Shortsighted, Need a Long-Term Solution
It’s evident in our personal lives and in the leadership and policy that govern our society; we have a perpetually short attention span. The complacency and unchecked enthusiasm we see with regards to the growth of the hydraulic fracturing industry is just another indicator of our inability, or perhaps refusal, to think long-term.
As we speak, the fracking industry accounts for a third of the U.S. gas supply—a more than two-fold increase from 2009. In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama said he wants even more natural gas. He touted it as a clean and viable means to boost the economy, reduce our dependency on foreign energy and bring down the price of gas.
He also threw in demands for regulations on public lands, focusing on the disclosure of the chemical concoction that has reportedly been seeping into public drinking water.
This double message from the President is confusing: he labels fracking a ‘clean’ energy, while simultaneously calling for its regulation. Is this another case of purposely misleading—typical politics? Fracking is not a clean energy Mr. President. And being satisfied with the disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracking process is not enough.
Geologists have documented earthquakes in previously earthquake-free regions as a result of the industry’s exponential growth. Studies have shown that gas from fracking may be a more potent contributor to our greenhouse gas problem then oil or conventional gas. Here’s an excerpt from a Cornell University study:
Natural gas is composed largely of methane, and 3.6% to 7.9% of the methane from shale-gas production escapes to the atmosphere in venting and leaks over the lifetime of a well. These methane emissions are at least 30% more than and perhaps more than twice as great as those from conventional gas…Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, with global warming potential that is far greater than that of carbon dioxide, particularly over the time horizon of the first few decades following emission. .. The footprint for shale gas is greater than that for conventional gas or oil when viewed on any time horizon, but particularly so over 20 years. 
Hindsight is always 20/20, and sometimes what we see is grim. This short-sided behavior has been around for a long time. For example, the dangers of transfat go way back to the early 1900's but thanks to crafty marketing campaigns and no regulation, we ate the stuff like there was no tomorrow. 100 years later and we are finally able to rid our selves of the lie.
We take incredible risks with our health and the health of our environment, despite the very real possibility that hydraulic fracturing is dangerous and may only be a short-term solution. The industry does not seem to be worried about consequences. In comparison the aggressive nature of how the fracking industry is pursuing their economic pay out with lobbying and public relation campaigns, it bears ressemblance to the transfat campaign of the last century. Are we again fighting a losing battle? We need to do better.
More research needs to be done. The research may show that the results are simply not worth the risks. And what are the long-term consequences?
Let’s focus on real clean energy and hold our country to a higher standard, instead of succumbing to instant gratification. Where do we see ourselves in the future? If we don’t get it right now, it’s a pointless question.
by Audrey Janes, a contributing writer for Solar and Wind Living. She writes and publishes the Don't be a Polar Bear website.