The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Understanding Fracking

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted October 18, 2013

A recent University of Texas poll points up an interesting disconnect in Americans: While more than 80 percent of those surveyed said they support natural gas development, they’re much less enthusiastic about the process that has made America’s energy resurgence possible: hydraulic fracturing. Fuel

…  among the 40 percent of  survey respondents who said they were familiar with hydraulic fracturing, only 38 percent supported the technology, down from 45 percent six months ago. The conflicting responses to the survey reveal persistent confusion over the renaissance of natural gas production in the United States. Oil and natural gas production has soared in the last five years, driven largely by advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.

No doubt, this results from misinformation and confusion spread by opponents of natural gas development. By its nature scaremongering attracts attention, and the poll indicates many Americans need more information about the process that created the ongoing U.S. energy renaissance. Sheril Kirshenbaum, UT’s energy poll director:

“What we’re seeing is the real disconnect between energy and the American public. In some instances, ideology may influence attitudes, but there’s unquestionably a lack of understanding across a broad swath of energy issues that affect each of us.”

No problem. When it comes to hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling – the twinned processes that have unlocked America’s shale energy wealth – facts aren’t in short supply.

Let’s look at some, starting with safe drinking water. Modern industry standards and rigorous oversight by state regulators have helped make fracking safe to the point that there have been no confirmed cases of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing in 1 million wells fracked over the past 60 years. The chemical disclosure registry helps promote transparency in energy development. Meanwhile, industry activity is subject to a number of federal and state laws including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, speaking last month at an energy conference in New Mexico:

“(Hydraulic fracturing) is creating an energy revolution in the United States. I would say to everybody that hydraulic fracturing is safe.”

The Columbus Dispatch, covering former Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s speech last month in Ohio:

“Environmental groups have campaigned for stricter controls on fracking. But Chu said it is a “false choice” to say that the country must decide between inexpensive natural gas and preserving the environment. “This is something you can do in a safe way,” he said.

Then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in 2012:

“In no case have we made a definitive determination that the fracking process has caused chemical contamination of groundwater.”

 And Jackson in 2011:

“I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”

A CardnoENTRIX study of hydraulic fracturing in California found that fracking technologies are safe and don’t threaten water supplies or cause earthquakes. Here’s more on earthquakes from Energy in Depth:

Again, the point is that a claim that fracking causes seismic activity travels faster and further than truth. Same with emissions. But scary stories about emissions from fracking just aren’t based in fact. A comprehensive University of Texas study released recently showed that methane emissions from natural gas drilling are a fraction of estimates from just a few years ago.

Safe and responsible energy development using hydraulic fracturing has changed America’s energy narrative from one of scarcity and limited options to one of abundance and great possibility. We’ll say it again: Without fracking there is no changed narrative, no U.S. energy revolution.

Public support for fracking is vital for this revolution to continue, becoming safer and more efficient as technologies and procedures continue to improve. Fact-based dialogue certainly helps foster that support. It’s a conversation America’s oil and natural gas companies eagerly support.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.