Your Montana Public Radio
Commentary - January 9th, 2014
Thu January 9, 2014
Fracking: America’s new “F” word
Since the release of the film Gasland, the 60 year old petroleum extraction process of hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking” has been lighting up the media like the flaming faucets used to scare energy consumers.
Fracking, a post drilling injection that pumps pressurized water, sand, and publicly disclosed chemicals into tight formations several thousand feet below ground, is being used today with another innovation; horizontal drilling, to take America from energy scarcity, to energy abundance.
In today’s climate of increased public involvement in policy making, the proliferation of false information threatens the future of American-made energy more than any of the processes being condemned by misinformed and activist sources.
Claims of contamination, flammable tap water, earthquakes, water shortages and even Cancer have been fact-checked and disproven by the top regulatory agencies and medical centers in the country, and yet the controversy continues.
Fracking bans proposed around the country have been based heavily on alarmist rhetoric and fear mongering. For too long, industry has remained quiet, often choosing to remain hidden from the limelight that today, many celebrities are rushing to be a part of. A limelight of activism, with the likes of Yoko Ono, Lady Gaga, and others speaking out against something they know little about….energy development.
But the industry is waking up. Realizing what influence social media now has on public opinion and public policy, the truth about oil, natural gas, and ‘fracking’ in particular is beginning to make its way into the mainstream. And after 165 years…you could say it’s… about “fracking” time.
Over 6,000 everyday products are made from petroleum; including cosmetics, synthetic clothing, rubber, and plastic. Petroleum is literally a lifesaver when you look at all the ways it is used; in heart valves, parachutes, seat belts, and life preservers. It’s in the roads and tires we drive on, even in electric vehicles. It’s in water bottles, bike tires, and paved trails, affording those whose mobility is restricted to motorized means the ability to enjoy the great outdoors up close and personal.
Agriculture and tourism rely heavily on petroleum. Just look at the diesel and fertilizer used for agriculture, and the transportation which literally fuels tourism. Think about manufacturing, construction, and home building…and the fuel they require.
And with each oil and gas job, three more are created indirectly; jobs in retail, hospitality, food, and service industries. Tax revenue created by oil and gas jobs provide funding for public programs as well, including schools.
There is a very real and personal side of the petroleum industry too, one that is too often ignored.
Seldom acknowledged for being the lifeblood of a community or family, the jobs and paychecks from oil related jobs are exactly that.
More than 25,000 jobs in Montana are related to oil and gas development. A job is a person’s ability to put food on the table and presents under the tree. A job affords families and individuals the means to pay bills and shop locally, as well as the opportunity to recreate and travel. For students, innovation in the industry offers the promise of employment, and the means to pay off student loans.
Montana’s only Petroleum Engineering department has increased 10% every year since 2007, and the Diesel Program at Missoula College now has a waiting list of students.
With resources in Montana, many people are finding work here without having to leave the state. Eastern Montana’s unemployment numbers offer the most telling story of the positive impact energy exploration has had on job creation.
So in spite of the fracas about fracking, the facts speak loud and clear. The truth about petroleum is a reflection of the miracle of American ingenuity, the engine of economic progress, and What Opportunity Looks Like.