Is the gas industry mature enough to have a serious discussion with the American public about hydraulic fracturing, one that explores the benefits of domestic natural gas drilling but also carefully considers methane leaks, groundwater contamination, earthquakes and other potential risks that peer-reviewed research has linked to fracking activity?
Fracking has made you $1,200 richer!, says a new industry-funded report that doesn't address any of that stuff.
The report, released today by a consulting firm called IHS, found that the "unconventional oil boom" is making businesses richer, making consumers richer and creating lots of jobs, which presumably are also making everyone richer.
Currently, U.S. households are saving $1,200 a year thanks to the boom, the report says. It predicts that by 2015, savings will reach $2,000 annually. And by 2025, they will reach $3,500.
"The unconventional oil and gas revolution is not only an energy story, it is also a very big economic story that flows throughout the U.S. economy in a way that is only now becoming apparent," Daniel Yergin, IHS vice chairman, says in an accompanying press release. Yay!
But then, Bloomberg News had to go interview someone from the Environmental Defense Fund.
"If you're going to make the argument that there are benefits to developing this resource you have to also be prepared to make the argument that you're going to do everything possible to minimize risks to public health and the environment," Mark Brownstein, chief counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, told Bloomberg.
Minimizing possible risks sounds hard, let's skip the rest of that story and go to The Dallas Morning News' coverage.
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"It's a positive story, and we're at the beginning of it," IHS Vice President John Larson told the DMN. The boom has been especially good for Texas, creating 576,000 jobs, but if anything stops the boom, it will be bad, according to figures provided to the DMN by Larson: "Larson said the economic benefits from the boom would be cut sharply if new regulations curtail fracking," and "Larson said he expects a spread to reappear between U.S. and foreign oil prices as producers keep adding wells and supplies." It sounds like someone has a little crush on Larson.
The report appears to be from a vacuum in which other, sadder reports about fracking in Texas do not exist. It's published just a few weeks after the Guardian profiled small Texas towns that were experiencing a healthy oil boom along with a devastating drop in water supplies.
"In Texas alone, about 30 communities could run out of water by the end of the year," the report says, citing data from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The towns had already been suffering from droughts for the past three years, with many industries to blame for wasting what water was left. But the large amount of water used in fracking each well has put yet more pressure on dwindling water resources.
And a UT-Arlington report published in July found that elevated levels of arsenic were detected at 29 water wells in the Barnett Shale. "It was clear in times where we found really high arsenic levels, you're up close to a wellhead," the lead researcher told Unfair Park shortly after his study was published.