President Obama deserves credit for standing fast in his support for natural gas development through hydraulic fracturing – especially given the no-to-natural gas approach taken by some of his supporters in the environmental community, including the Sierra Club. Here’s the president on Monday in Cincinnati:
“… We’re moving in the right direction in terms of energy independence. Now, part of that is this boom in natural gas. And this is something we should welcome, because not only are we blessed with incredible natural gas resources that are now accessible because of new technologies, but natural gas actually burns cleaner than some other fossil fuels, and is an ideal fuel -- energy source that we potentially can use for the next 100 years. So I want to encourage natural gas production. The key is to make sure that we do it safely and in a way that is environmentally sound.”
The president is spot on – and as a response to a negative question about natural gas, his remarks were all the more remarkable. Because of abundant, affordable gas, made accessible through fracking, the global energy balance could be shifting. The president continued:
“Now, you always hear these arguments that somehow there’s this huge contradiction between the environment and economic development, or the environment and energy production. And the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of folks right now that are engaging in hydraulic fracking who are doing it safely.”
This also is true. The oil and natural gas industry has focused on making hydraulic fracturing safer and more efficient through a set of standards that guide operators, and it has worked with states to develop regulatory regimes tailored for their specific conditions. The president went on:
“The problem is, is that we haven’t established clear guidelines for how to do it safely, and informed the public so that neighbors know what’s going on, and your family, you can make sure that any industry that’s operating in your area, that they’re being responsible.”
Well, OK. The president is mistaken or misinformed on that point. Industry has been clear and detailed in developing the standards mentioned above. It also has supported FracFocus.org to create transparency about fracking itself – a website community members can use to learn where wells are being drilled in their area, as well as the chemicals being used in the fracking fluids themselves. The industry takes community engagement and support seriously and is committed to getting shale development right.
Back to the president:
“What we’ve said is, look, we are going to work with industry to establish best practices. We are going to invest in the basic research and science required to make sure this is done safely and in a way that protects the public health. And for responsible companies, they should be able to operate, make a profit, and we can all benefit and put people back to work."
Best practices, we’re on it, Mr. President. Industry also is supportive of new technologies to improve operations, including those to reduce or even eliminate water use during the fracking process. Shale energy is creating jobs, thousands of them, and boosting the economy.