The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

False Choices and the Anti-Fracking Crowd, Part 1

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted August 28, 2014

A USA Today op-ed this week on hydraulic fracturing by the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Amy Mall is such an achievement in dishonesty it’ll take multiple posts to unpack it all. So stay tuned. For now, let’s look at the opening, tone-setting paragraph of Mall’s piece and the way it deploys a false choice to try to undercut public support for fracking, the very basis of America’s ongoing energy revolution. Mall writes:

We all want economic and energy security. But recklessly ramping up U.S. oil and gas production is not the answer.

clearerMall starts with a truth – in an otherwise seriously truth-challenged piece. Yes, Americans very much want economic and energy security.

Pew Research annually polls Americans to develop a list of the issues they care about the most. The economy, economic growth and jobs are at the top of the list year in and year out (see the 2013 survey, 2012, 2011 and 2010). It makes perfect sense. Having a job in a growing economy is fundamental to the economic prosperity and social mobility of individuals and families alike.

American oil and natural gas production is the answer. Americans believe there’s a connection between safe and responsible oil and gas development and jobs, economic growth and greater energy security. A few of the results from a Harris Poll earlier this year:

  • 87 percent agree that increased production of domestic oil and natural gas could help stimulate the economy
  • 92 percent say increasing development of the country’s energy infrastructure would help strengthen U.S. energy security
  •  91 percent say increased domestic production of oil and natural gas could lead to more U.S. jobs

The fact is U.S. registered voters associate benefits with America’s energy revolution, made possible by advanced hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. USA Today editorializes:

The Energy Department projects that domestic crude oil production will average 9.3 million barrels a day next year. That's a 43% increase just since 2012, and a near doubling from 2008. Recent discoveries, meanwhile, have made natural gas so abundant that it could easily last more than a century at today's consumption rates. Neither of these fortuitous developments would have happened without new drilling techniques, most notably hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a process of using pressurized water, chemicals and sand to extract oil and gas from tight rock formations. … It's nearly impossible to overstate what a positive development this has been.

practicesAs for Mall’s false choice, “recklessly” is Mall’s straw man, a talking point of opponents of oil and natural gas development that’s simply not grounded in fact. On the contrary, hydraulic fracturing operations are subject to a number of federal laws, which the folks at Energy In Depth lay out in an infographic, here. They include the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and more.

Meanwhile, state regulatory agencies – which have the highest stakes in protecting state and local environments, water supplies and communities – are rigorously enforcing fracking rules designed specifically for the conditions and characteristics of their states. Then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson acknowledged state regulatory proficiency in 2011.

State regulatory regimes work in conjunction with industry’s commitment to safety and strong industry standards for hydraulic fracturing operations that are carefully developed from field experience and subject to continuous improvement.

Again, more to come.  


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.