If there’s anything to be gained from the controversiality of the fracking debate, it’s that the nature of your sources dictate the information you’re getting. It would not be hard to point to credible sources that refute each claim Stephanie O’Brien makes, specifically on omission the of fracking’s severe social implications and its contamination of well water. We want to avoid a belligerent back and forth, and instead attempt a conversation.
O’Brien mentions a few benefits of fracking for the U.S., including energy independence, more jobs, cheaper fuel, and its potential to eradicate our use of coal. Each of these benefits have merit — in the short-term. Jobs that fracking creates are short-lived and sporadic, benefitting not the locals but out-of-state workers who are experienced in the field. Fuel that fracking allows us access is only cheaper as long as the shale gas is easily attainable. The more that is extracted, the less there will be, and the more difficult and expensive the process will become. Like with oil, the price will inevitably rise because of diminishing resources. And like oil, natural gas is finite. This brings us to O’Brien’s best point on fracking’s benefits: it’s cleaner than coal. This in and of itself is controversial, but provided that the fracking exploration cleans up its act, the burning and refining of natural gas is cleaner than older coal plants. If we’re in a race to drastically lower our national carbon emissions, natural gas as a transition fuel away from coal makes sense.
Radical environmentalists would ask why we need a transition between fossil fuels and alternative energy, and the truth is limits in technology cannot provide us with the quantity of energy we currently consume as a country at this time. But is our only choice to turn to a resource as finite and potentially damaging as oil?