Scientifically Unsupported Climate Fears Spread to FrackingAlan Carlin | March 11, 2016
I have previously pointed out that Hillary Clinton, the leading US Democratic Party Presidential candidate, has positioned herself to the left of President Obama on climate. A few weeks ago she told an environmental activist that she wanted to end the use of fossil fuels in the US. She has now stated she is effectively opposed to using fracking in oil and gas production except when very stringent conditions are met which ultimately would result in few “places in America where fracking will be able to take place.” Her only remaining opponent for the Democratic Party nomination, Senator Sanders, has gone even further and favors an outright ban on fracking.
All this is curious because the Democratic Party is often identified with the interests of lower income Americans. Fracking has resulted in great benefits for such Americans since it has greatly lowered both gasoline and natural gas prices in very recent years. Lower income Americans may have lower natural gas heating bills and drive smaller cars, but expenditures on gasoline and natural gas make up a much greater percentage of their total expenditures so anything that reduces these expenditures has a much greater impact on their lives.
The Impication is that Environmental Fracking Fears Are More Important than Economic Welfare
The implication is that the two leading Democratic Party candidates believe that their fears of the adverse environmental effects of fracking are more important than the economic welfare of their lower income supporters. This position is clearly further to the left than the views of the Obama Administration, which at least publicly has supported fracking and has even tried to claim some of the credit for this important innovation.
Without fracking and horizontal drilling, it is likely that gasoline and natural gas prices would continue to increase as they did until the last few years as large reservoir sources of these important fossil fuels gradually become exhausted and harder to discover. And many US opponents such as Venezuela and Russia would continue to reap the benefits of their increasingly scarce remaining oil and natural gas resources. With continued fracking and horizontal drilling gas and oil prices are likely to remain much nearer recent prices. This will provide a much higher standard of living in the US and elsewhere for oil and at least in the US for natural gas. And it will improve US national security.
Yet no significant adverse environmental effects of fracking have been proved to date. A draft EPA report states that they “did not find evidence” that the mechanisms by which fracking might have the potential to damage drinking water “have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.” And if such adverse environmental effects should be proved, it is likely that carefully crafted yet inexpensive regulations could minimize if not avoid them by improving the techniques and practices of the frackers.
Senator Sanders is effectively saying that not only are there important adverse environmental effects from fracking, but they cannot be avoided through mandating improved performance if and when they should be proved. This position does not appear to be supported by any observational evidence, much like the highly exaggerated claims concerning the effects of human carbon dioxide emissions on climate.