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Sunday, Sep 24, 2017
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Editorial: The real dirt on fracking

Though “fracking” has bolstered the nation’s economy and energy supply, polls show Americans are, at best, split over its merits.

And that’s understandable. In the process, a mixture of water, sand and caustic chemicals is pumped deep into the ground to fracture shale rocks and release natural gas.

Opponents fault the procedure for causing water and air pollution, contributing to climate change and earthquakes. This last claim is not far-fetched. Fracking proponents acknowledge it causes some “seismic activity,” and it has been linked to minor earthquakes in Oklahoma.

Environmental groups have pushed to outlaw fracking, and there have been fracking bans or moratoriums in New York, California and other states.

But those who characterize fracking as a grave threat to the public and the environment should consider a comprehensive study by the Environmental Protection Agency that concluded, as The Wall Street Journal reports, there is no evidence the procedure has had a widespread impact on drinking water.

There have been, to be sure, damaging spills and leaks, but the more-than-1,000-page report found it has not caused significant damage to groundwater resources.

The EPA draft study was conducted over four years. It surely won’t eliminate opposition but should reassure Americans the practice won’t be the ruin of our water supplies as many opponents claim.

Without question, it should be carefully monitored and regulated. As with any such excavation process, including offshore oil drilling, there are places where fracking is inappropriate.

But fracking benefits are obvious. It has contributed to an American energy production renaissance that, as National Geographic points out, helped increase total U.S. oil to near historic highs of more than 9 million barrels a day, nearly as high as Saudi Arabia’s 9.6 million barrels of daily oil production.

It has also led to lower gas prices, helping spur economic growth, creating jobs and easing the strain on family budgets.

By lowering fossil fuels costs, fracking makes it more difficult for alternative fuels to gain traction, which is no doubt the underlying source of much of environmentalists’ opposition.

Climate change activists want to dramatically reduce carbon emissions and the use of fossil fuels that produce them.

We don’t dismiss the need to be concerned about climate change and support the development of clean energy sources.

But abruptly shutting off the nation’s fossil fuel spigot would have small effect on the global environment while having a disastrous effect on the nation’s economy. And you can be sure environmental concerns won’t be a priority should the nation fall into a recession. Indeed, a nation with a vibrant economy will be better able to pursue clean and economical alternative energy.

Fracking’s natural gas provides Americans an abundant, relatively clean domestic fuel source that strengthens our economy and reduces our reliance on oil from the volatile Mideast. Those are profound benefits from an energy source that, as the EPA study found, is not the environmental threat some would have you believe.

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