The fracking industry will once again come under attack this December with the release of Matt Damon’s new movie entitled The Promised Land (for the trailer see below). The likely inspiration for the film is the events that transpired in Dimock, Penn., back in 2009 where local residents claimed that the fracking wells drilled by Cabot Oil & Gas had contaminated their water supply. In 2010, the EPA held a public meeting in which residents told strange stories about visiting reporters with sore throats, a girl with asthma unable to speak, and methane filled wells. Makes for some good Hollywood action right?
Unfortunately for the makers of The Promised Land, the EPA exonerated Cabot Oil & Gas of all charges of drinking water contamination in July, probably just as the film had reached the point of no return in production. There are rumors that the film has undergone some hasty rewriting, but based on the trailer that came out a couple weeks ago, the average movie goer will still be convinced that fracking is all kinds of unsafe.
Even after the original fracking documentary — if it can be called that — Gasland was debunked two years ago, people still run around citing what they learned from the film as an argument against fracking.
You see, fracking is the misunderstood gentle giant of the energy industry. The large majority of concerns regarding the process are a result of misinformation. In all of the legitimate scientific studies that have been conducted, not a single incident of groundwater contamination has been found to have been the result of the fracking process. Even EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has recognized this: “I am not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself affected water although there are investigations ongoing.”
I would argue that fracking is one of the best chances this country has at reducing dependence on foreign oil and speeding up the economic recovery. The Yale Graduates Energy Study Group determined that in 2010, the consumer savings/ gains from fracking were over $100 billion.
Fracking has been a tremendously important part of economic recovery across the country. The Heritage Foundation recently produced a short documentary A New Day for North Dakota that explores how a small, dying town in North Dakota was completely turned around by the fracking industry.
But fracking doesn’t just benefit states that are directly involved with drilling. Wisconsin has become the nation’s largest producer of frac sand, which is used to prop open the shale to let the oil flow out. The number of mining operations has doubled since 2010. The head of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources stated, “We’ve created way over 1,000 jobs in this industry in the last four months [September 2011- January 2012].” A small, family-owned convenience store in Maiden Rock, Wisc., derives 40% of its annual revenue from the frac sand mine in the town:
“Without that [sand mine], this business wouldn’t be open … The frac sand mine is the best thing that’s ever happened to this village.”
There are hundreds more stories like this across the country. The fracking industry is booming and it should not be stifled by government overregulation.
Each state has its own set of regulations regarding shale gas and states have an excellent record of upholding these standards and exacting fines or sanctions on companies that break the rules. For a list of fracking regulations in each state, click here. Regulations cover every stage of the fracking process from well spacing, to the type of liners that can be used in retention ponds.
A free market approach is necessary to foster technological advances that will lead to more efficient and effective fracking technologies. If the industry is overregulated by the government, there will be less economic incentive for companies and individuals to invest in and develop new technology. Human ingenuity is by far our nation’s most precious resource and we need a government that rewards innovation and allows it to flourish.