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The Leaflet: Fracking Creates Abundant and Affordable Energy, Not Flammable Water

May 24, 2018

This week's Leaflet examines a groundbreaking recent study from the University of Cincinnati that reveals fracking does not cause abnormal levels of methane.

You may remember heavily promoted ads for Gasland, a 2010 anti-fracking documentary, showing a Colorado man recoiling from a fireball that was ignited when he held a lighter to water spouting from his faucet. According to Gasland, the fire was proof of the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking.” What that famous film purposefully failed to reveal, however, was that the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission determined in 2008 the man’s drinking water had naturally elevated concentrations of methane, independent of fracking activity.

Since Gasland made headlines, much research has been conducted showing the benefits and relative safety of fracking, including a new study that throws water on the long-burning, oft-repeated claim by environmental activists that hydraulic fracturing activity contaminates drinking water located in or near shale gas regions.

In this groundbreaking study, University of Cincinnati researchers amassed four years’ worth of groundwater measurements in the Utica Shale region of Appalachian Ohio. The study’s authors report from 2012 to 2015, there were substantial increases in shale gas development in the Utica region. In Carroll County, where the majority of data was collected, the number of fracking permits increased more than tenfold, from 115 permits in January 2012 to 1,600 permits in February 2015. Since 2011, more than 2,000 horizontal wells were drilled in this region, which contains a rural population that relies mostly on groundwater wells for drinking water.

Researchers measured dissolved methane (CH4) concentrations, pH levels, and electrical conductivity in several shallow groundwater wells. Contrary to what the researchers hypothesized (and what environmentalists, Hollywood, and the mainstream media continually espouse), concentrations of methane in regularly monitored groundwater wells did not increase despite there being a large increase in shale gas production over the study period. Moreover, CH4 concentration in several wells decreased, and CH4 concentrations did not increase in the groundwater located within a mile of the studied active shale gas wells.

Researchers posit natural variability and occurrences of methane in groundwater are unconnected to fracking activity. As with methane concentration, electrical conductivity and pH levels did not change significantly in groundwater wells, including those closest to shale gas wells.

Other studies have drawn similar conclusions, including a multi-million-dollar, six-year study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And ample reports demonstrate the positive effects of additional oil and gas production, such as income growth, job creation, and lower energy prices.

LNG Allies, a nonprofit trade group, recently calculated the economic benefits of U.S. liquid natural gas (LNG) exports spurred by increased fracking production. The group found the cumulative direct, indirect, and induced value added from LNG exports will be between $716 billion and $1.3 trillion from 2013 to 2050 and will foster 2 million to 3.9 million job-years of direct, indirect, and induced labor over the same period. An additional 5.3 million to 11.6 million job-years can be expected through 2050 resulting from growth in natural gas liquefaction plants.

Heartland Policy Analyst Tim Benson concludes lawmakers can and should do more to facilitate energy production. Benson argues by unleashing ample domestic energy resources, the United States will become energy-independent, and all Americans will benefit from steady and affordable energy.

“The oil and natural gas hydraulic fracturing has enabled us to unearth and use are cost-effective and abundant, and they can ensure the United States is the world’s largest energy producer well beyond the 21st century,” Benson wrote. “Policymakers should make sure not to put unnecessary and harmful regulatory burdens on industries such as the natural gas and oil industries, which are safe, responsible, and have had an enormous positive impact on the economy at the macro and micro levels.”

 

What We're Working On

Health Care
The Post-Obamacare Future at the Federal Level
In her inaugural podcast, Sarah Lee, managing editor of Health Care News, examines the future of health care at the federal and state levels. Lee also discusses HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s recent hearing before the Senate. In the hearing, Azar explained how short-term insurance plans can help alleviate rising premiums in post-Obamacare America.

Budget & Tax
Comment to the World Health Organization Regarding Noncommunicable Diseases and Their Risk Factors
In this comment submitted to the World Health Organization’s Independent High-level Commission on Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs), State Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud argues products such as smokeless tobacco, heat-not-burn, and electronic cigarettes have significant potential to eradicate or substantially reduce NCDs. “As the evidence for their potential as effective cessation tools continues to grow, public health agencies should focus on policies that promote their use. Not only should these products be regulated differently than traditional cigarettes, public health groups should inform the public of their health potential and use these tools to combat smoking,” Stroud wrote.

Education
Study Details the Positive Impact of Chile’s National School Choice Model
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson details a new EdChoice report that examines Chile’s universal school voucher program. Chile has outpaced all other Latin American countries on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam and, contrary to the claims of critics, is not increasing socioeconomic segregation at a rate out of the ordinary for the region. The report discusses the country’s free school choice program, where parents are given a voucher to send their children to any public or private school that meet regulatory criteria. Under this system, Chile scored higher than any other Latin American country on the latest round of the PISA exam in 2015. Chile’s average score of 443 points on PISA 2015 dwarfed its nearest Latin America competitors, Costa Rica and Mexico, both of which averaged 416.

Energy & Environment
Natural Gas Exports, Driven by Fracking, Will Provide Long-Term Economic Benefits
In this Research & Commentary, Benson writes about an analysis from LNG Allies, a nonprofit trade group, which estimates liquid natural gas (LNG) exporters will add between $716 billion and $1.267 trillion in cumulative “direct, indirect, or induced value added” to the U.S. economy by 2050. Over the same time, the value added to the economy “from supplying natural gas to the liquefaction plants” will be $948 billion to $1.988 trillion. The analysis also estimates LNG export terminals will support 50,000–100,000 jobs in 2050 and that LNG exports will also spur job creation in the natural gas industry, which is expected to grow by 150,000–300,000 jobs over the same period. From 2013 to 2050, the analysis estimates LNG plants would support 2 million to 3.9 million job-years of direct, indirect, and induced labor.

From Our Free-Market Friends
Asset Forfeiture Reform in Rhode Island
The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity proposes a series of reforms the state’s General Assembly should impose to curb law enforcement agencies’ unnecessary and unfair property seizures from criminal suspects. Under current Rhode Island law, mere suspicion of criminal activity is grounds to have your private property forfeited to the state. Taking personal property in this draconian manner only encourages law enforcement to seize as much as they can, whenever they can. Recommended reforms include prohibiting local governments from asset forfeiture profiteering, increasing transparency and oversight, and providing prompt, streamlined legal procedures for innocent victims to reclaim their property.

 

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Author
Arianna Wilkerson works in government relations at The Heartland Institute.
awilkerson@heartland.org