The debate over hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) suffers from misinformation says a new issue paper published by Colorado’s free-market think tank, the Independence Institute.
“When it comes to fracking, most people cannot tell fact from fiction because they simply do not understand the process,” says Donovan Schafer, a research associate at the Independence Institute and author of the paper. The paper, Frack Attack: Cracking The Case Against Hydraulic Fracturing, attempts to give the public the information it badly needs:
- Is fracking an old, proven technology or a brand new method of extraction? The answer is both. Fracking is an old, proven technology that is being used in a new and exciting way on shale rock formations.
- Does fracking contaminated drinking water? No, fracking has never contaminated drinking water. However, the drilling process and fluid handling that accompanies fracking can cause specific, limited types of contamination.
- Will fracking deplete Colorado’s water resources? Never. The relative amounts of water involved and existing regulations make this a virtual impossibility.
“If we understood fracking as well as we understand cars, food, and football, there would be nowhere near the same level of opposition that there is today,” says Schafer. “In my experience, the more people know about fracking, the less concerned they tend to be. The key is to make sure people are getting information that can help them visualize the process, connect the dots, and see clearly the issues at stake. Unfortunately, there are so many false accusations and horror stories circulating that it is hard to have a clear and informed discussion.”
Many people do not even know what oil and natural gas are, how they are related, and in what forms they exist underground. The technologies involved — horizontal drilling, microseismic mapping, cement bond logging–are rarely explained in a way that is accessible to the public.
“The stakes are enormous,” says Schafer. “More than 60 percent of the energy we use in the United States comes from oil and natural gas. We have to drill to get it, and increasingly, we have to frack to get it. If people better understood the process, how little risk it poses, and how much of our wellbeing is at stake, there would be no question as to what we should do.”