EDITORIAL: ‘Global Frackdown’ risks power smackdown

Truly sustainable energy policy needs natural gas

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American energy independence ought to be a no-brainer. The recent Middle East unrest underscores the need for minimizing U.S. reliance on foreign sources to power the nation. Obama administration efforts to block access to domestic fossil fuels ensures our future is taken hostage by unfriendly oil lords.

Leftists will serve the cause of dependency with their “Global Frackdown” on Sept. 22, when they will instigate demonstrations across the planet against hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking.” The breakthrough procedure for tapping natural gas pumps water, sand and chemicals into underground seams, cracking shale rock and releasing trapped pockets of previously unreachable gas. This sudden leap in production technology is viewed as a threat to the dream of a world powered only by sunshine, breezes and algae. Frackdown organizers wish that credulous mobs, which already are forcing a crackdown on fracking in the United States, will appear in Europe and Asia as well.

The Marcellus Shale Formation, running from New York to West Virginia, holds an enormous treasure of hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. The growing use of fracking to reach it has boosted U.S. natural-gas production to an all-time high and driven the price to a 10-year low. American companies are exporting the know-how and equipment overseas to regions where similar underground formations have been found.

Scaremongering requires a bugaboo, so “frackdown” activists have charged that chemicals used in the fracturing process can contaminate groundwater, while escaping gas pollutes the air. Activist bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used a complaint in Pavillion, Wyo., last year to launch a nationwide study of the effects of fracking on water tables. Adding to the hype is “Gasland,” a 2010 agitprop film blaming the technique for tap water so polluted in Dimock, Pa., that residents could ignite it with a lighter. Despite the propaganda, the EPA found the contamination wasn’t caused by fracking chemicals but by methane occurring naturally in the town’s bedrock. The agency didn’t highlight those unexpected results.

In May, Vermont became the first state to ban fracking. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been expected to approve limited fracking near the Empire State’s Pennsylvania border, but delays suggest he may cave ultimately to opposition pressure. Overseas, opposition to the practice is spreading, with France and Bulgaria forbidding it and Germany considering a ban near reservoirs.

Power sources that stop working on cloudy days or on calm, windless mornings will never be sustainable substitutes for fossil fuels. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s annual energy outlook for 2012 forecasts that “the fossil-fuel share of energy consumption falls from 83 percent of total U.S. energy demand in 2010 to 77 percent in 2035.” During the same period, consumption from “renewables” (including hydroelectric and geothermal) is expected only to rise from 5.9 percent to 8.1 percent.

The Global Frackdown will simply contribute to an economic smackdown that perpetuates American energy dependency. Barring solid evidence of environmental harm, hydraulic fracturing deserves a break.

The Washington Times

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