Fracking Fantasies

Environmentalists have taken aim at a common natural gas extraction technique called Hydraulic Fracturing, or Fracking. The enviros claim that Fracking will contaminate ground water or even cause earthquakes because it involves injecting water, sand, and some chemicals into bedrock to increase natural gas supplies. Not only are these claims specious (Fracking occurs well below the water table), the enviros are revisiting a long history of hypocrisy since the only way to obtain their renewable energy goal is through Fracking.

States like Wyoming and Texas are now requiring thorough disclosure of Fracking chemicals. France has banned the practice outright. Agitprop movies like Gasland seek to demonize the technology that has turned an expensive, price volatile commodity into a near limitless resource. Even if everything the enviros say about Fracking is true, they still want the US to shift toward natural gas for most of its energy needs, and that requires Fracking. As usual, the enviro dirty laundry is showing.

At least 23 states have renewable energy laws that purport to require 15% to 30% of all electricity to come from renewable energy sources. But wind power provides less than 2% of the nation’s electricity and solar nearly zero. How do these states hope to go from 2% to 30%? The answer is a political sleight of hand called the Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS. A RPS does not actually require a massive and impractical investment in solar and wind generation, it requires the overall CO2 emissions of a utility to mirror a hypothetical portfolio of renewable energy sources (assuming such technologies actually worked as advertised).

A RPS solution usually contains a token amount of wind and solar credits, along with advertising encouraging consumers to conserve, but the bulk of the results come from replacing coal plants with natural gas turbines. The unadvertised reality of a RPS is that it is nothing more than shifting from coal to natural gas. Renewable energy? Hardly, but natural gas contains hydrogen atoms that when burned release H2O, not CO2. By its nature, natural gas releases less CO2 per unit of energy, so the bottom line of replacing coal with natural gas resembles an investment in renewable energy. Also, natural gas turbines produce fewer secondary pollutants than coal, a nice plus given the EPA’s regulations regarding mercury and particulates.

So, renewable energy has next to nothing to do with wind and solar and is mostly replacing coal with natural gas. What is the problem? Well, prior to Fracking, natural gas was a limited and expensive commodity with a highly volatile price. Shifting electricity generation to natural gas would more than double the price of powering people’s homes. The only way to achieve a RPS is to ensure a vast and stable supply of natural gas, and currently Fracking is the only practical way to do that.

The same enviros that demanded the shift from coal want to shut down domestic natural gas production. The old line about conservation, living simply, and other collectivist garbage cannot withstand the fact that the US economy needs energy to function. Be it coal or natural gas, something must be extracted from the ground, and it must be burned. But enviros do not care about reality because they are never held accountable for their positions; they are just ‘for the planet,’ not for regular people powering their homes. The Old Time Media will never point out the enviro hypocrisy of both demanding more natural gas energy and outlawing its production, but the enviro’s Fracking fantasy seeks to hobble the US way of life nonetheless.