Researchers in Colorado just came forward with a shocking claim: hydraulic fracturing, — or “fracking” — the decades-old method of using a high-velocity mixture of water, sand and chemicals to blast through rock to release oil and gas deposits, causes birth defects.
There’s just one hitch: it isn’t true. Like many environmental activists’ policy positions on natural gas development, this mistaken conclusion is based on a combination of faulty science, selective reading of evidence and ideologically-driven self-deception. According to Larry Wolk, the Executive Director of Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment, “a reader of the study could easily be misled to become overly concerned.”
He even warned pregnant women to stay away from the bogus study.
The Colorado fracking example is just the latest of many instances in which environmental activists have allowed ideology to trump science. Consider the spectacular claim, first promulgated in the all-but-fictitious “documentary” Gasland, that fracking causes gas to seep into the water supply in such volume that people can actually set their running water on fire.
Colorado — whose state government is headed by Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper –Investigated the claim, and found that the gas in the Gasland tap was “not related to oil and gas activity” at all, but was rather the result of the water well in question penetrating “at least four different coal beds,” which have well documented occurrences of methane.
In Pennsylvania, the state government instructed citizens on how to vent water wells of naturally-occurring methane years ago long before fracking was in regular use in the state.
Another major groundless claim of fracking opponents is that the chemicals used in the process contaminate drinking water. Not so, concluded the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Obama. Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told Congress in 2011 that she knew of no “proven case where the fracking process” affected water. The EPA itself has even used hydraulic fracturing to help clean up Superfund sites – uncontrolled areas that contain hazardous materials.
Then came the bogus assertion of a link between fracking and earthquakes. A U.S. Geological Survey scientist unequivocally stated that the agency finds “no evidence that [hydraulic fracturing] is related to the occurrence of earthquakes.” Yet such claims often garner headlines and require many man-hours of review and investigation only to determine they are baseless.
Let’s be clear about the stakes in these phony claims about fracking: A recent study by the respected research unit IHS CERA found that unconventional energy development, such as fracking and horizontal drilling, supported 2.1 million jobs last year and contributed $284 billion to the U.S. economy.
By 2025, the total could be 3.9 million jobs and $500 billion of our economy. But that’s only if the industry is allowed to expand to its full potential. If they are successful, anti-fracking fabulists will destroy a major contributor to U.S. economic growth and energy independence.
Environmentalists often claim that those who doubt that human activity is contributing to climate change are denying scientific fact. Yet their concern for the facts when the subject is fracking is nowhere near as scrupulous.
Those who oppose natural gas development in this country should hold themselves to the same high standard of scientific veracity they require of others.
Drew Johnson is a senior fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit educational organization dedicated to a smaller, more responsible government