Personally, I thought the debate had ended sometime last year when the news stopped talking about it. But somehow, on MSNBC.com, a little story on hydrofracking found its way through. A University of Texas study found that when hydraulic fracturing is done correctly, there is no groundwater contamination.
Of course, I saw the video where the guy set his water on fire, and that’s pretty strong evidence that something is in the tap water. I was just as enraged as anyone else last year that energy companies were contaminating our tap water in their ruthless search for more fossil fuels. This new study found that the contamination was probably occurring before hydraulic fracturing occurred. It concluded that at every drill site where procedures were followed correctly, none of these incidents were reported.
So I questioned the source. The Energy Institute of the University of Texas at Austin describes its major research initiative as facing the challenges and constraints brought about by “The advent of global warming and the need to produce energy from environmentally benign sources.” It hardly sounds like a front for the energy lobby.
Why did we give up so easily on fracking? No industry is perfect and mistakes happen, but we have little evidence to show that fracking is any more damaging to the environment than the average industry. With the evidence that groundwater contamination is more of a myth than fact, what criticisms are left? Some environmentalists claimed that fracking was causing earthquakes, but somehow that seems a bit farfetched.
But what are the benefits? About 18,000 New York State jobs, $2.5 billion of yearly income, and an extra $125 million in tax revenue for the state government, for starters. But with this new activity comes a multiplier effect, because most of the $2.5 billion that is earned will be spent elsewhere in New York, leading to even further increases in income and tax revenue.
Sometime in the coming months, the state government of New York will decide to what extent hydrofracking will be allowed in New York State. In all likelihood, some kind of compromise will be struck where cities or counties will decide whether hydrofracking will be allowed in their turf. But it may already be too late, as many energy companies have moved past New York to explore cheaper sources of natural gas in other states.
Yes, more studies are probably needed to come to a clearer conclusion. But there is strong evidence that New York is missing out on one of the biggest economic booms in its history. At what point does environmentalism go too far? When it comes to preventing damage to the environment, should we hold hydrofracking to the same standard as any other industry activity or continue to demonize this potential economic lifeboat? You may say that we can’t take any chances when it comes to the environment. But in the unsure economic times we live in, consider what we can afford when such a powerful technology could provide the jobs that New York desperately needs.