Although books are being written (and movies made) on the pro’s and con’s of Hydraulic Fracturing (correctly abbreviated as “frac’ing”) and the related revolutionary technology of Horizontal Drilling, I’ll give my opinion in the form of an ‘elevator speech’ (i.e. 600 words or less), understanding that I’m an American business person and recognize my views are USA biased.
1. Energy demand will grow, in a big way. A recent article in ICIS quoted Exxon as predicting Global Energy Demand to Grow by 35% in ’10-’40. In addition to non traditional sources, Exxon predicts that demand for oil will increase 25% before 2040 and NatGas by 65%. This energy must be created. Frac’ing and Horizontal Drilling is a part of the solution.
2. The dramatic increase in supply of oil and gas has dropped energy costs to such a point where American manufacturing has become viable again. Billions are being invested in new USA plants and refurbishment, and the USA’s renaissance as an exporter of manufactured goods and possibly energy resources in itself is powerful.
3. In the USA, energy independence is a matter of national security. I don’t think this is up for debate. There are passionate arguments from both sides about the viability of frac’ing within the USA borders. However, our reticence to move forward with the Keystone Pipeline and potentially alienate our Canadian friends to the north is unwise. The Canadians are actively looking to move their oil/gas from Alberta to foreign markets, and prefer the USA. If not to the USA, they will find thirsty markets in Asia and their juice will potentially find it’s way to nations not traditionally considered US allies.
1. Earthquakes? Does use of this technology increase the risk? The residents of Youngstown, Ohio would tell you so. A lot of research needs to be done; however, perhaps we can mitigate potential hazards by regulating fracking to low density population regions. Click for Article on Youngstown earthquakes
2. Environmental Damage: There are many valid claims (and significantly more uninformed ones) about such damage caused by frac’ing chemicals (i.e. potential seepage into aquifers, methane gas emitted from household sinks) and waste-water effluent. These are definite concerns and this issue must be addressed moving forward. Click on Article countering claims made in the movie, Gasland..
My view: “Buy Time” for Renewable Energy Sources to be Cost effectively produced. In addition to the pro’s of 1.) gaining energy independence for the USA, and 2.) creating competitiveness for American manufacturing, the increased volumes of oil and gas provided by this technology will literally ‘buy time’ for the world to develop cost effective and efficient non-traditional and renewable sources (i.e., solar, wind, hydro, bio, etc….).
My recommendation: Rather than spend so much time fighting against this technology, let’s embrace it and work to create environmentally safe and friendly solutions. Governments could create a tax for the profits that would be lost if frac’ing was banned. Agencies could allocate these funds to work on the renewable sources which will be essential for our children and grandchildren. Adherence to the regulations of the well completion process (i.e. cementing) could take on “zero defect” standards. The science of water treatment can be improved to handle the phenomenal volumes of waste water created by frac’ing, and as mankind has done so many times in the past – we can and will overcome these problems.
The Possibilities! It is my estimate that children born in the next two decades should work in an economy that is one of the most robust in American History. Utilizing frac’ing and horizontal drilling will help create this possibility.
There’s a lot more to discuss and I only used 598 words!
- Both Sides Mislead When It Comes to Fracking (blogs.wsj.com)
- US shale boom shakes Britain’s $33B chemicals industry (fuelfix.com)