Commentary: “Decline To Sign” Anti-Fracking Petition

JollyYou may be approached this summer and asked to sign a petition that seeks to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Michigan. The group Let’s Ban Fracking claims the process used to extract oil and gas is a danger to human health and safety and pollutes the air, water and land. It claims that stringent regulations on the industry aren’t good enough, and want an outright ban.

Let’s Ban Fracking (LBF) is headed up by a folklorist, a nurse and a professional protester, the same forces behind a 2013 failed attempt to ban fracking in the state. LuAnne Kozma is a former assistant curator for folk arts at the Michigan State Museum before becoming campaign director for LBF. Julia Williams is a R.N. who ran a failed 2014 Congressional campaign in Oakland County, and Anna Kathry Sluka grows vegetables and was big in the Occupy movement a few years ago, getting arrested in New York City twice in a span of six days. Their claims that fracking is a threat to safe drinking water and water supply is not supported by a recently released five-year study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA report found that hydraulic fracturing activities have the potential to affect drinking water resources, however, “We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the U.S.” The EPA did find specify instances of fracking affecting drinking water resources but, “The number of identified cases, however, was small compared to the number of hydraulically fractured wells.”

Anti-frackers’ tactics of scaring people into believing that fracking will pollute drinking water is not working because it’s not true. Now you’ll hear their sky-is-falling rhetoric that energy companies are depleting water supplies by using millions of gallons from the water cycle, never to be seen again. True, much of the water used in fracking is permanently stored in wells deep below ground (away from the water table) after it is used. The water mixture used to breakup shale and bring natural gas to the surface is made up of less than two percent chemicals and additives. When it can’t be treated and re-used it is buried, thereby removing it from the water cycle.

But get this: burning natural gas creates new water! Natural gas is mostly methane (CH4), a compound of carbon and hydrogen. When burned (to create heat for your furnace and stove), it recombines with oxygen to create carbon dioxide and … water! Conservative estimates suggest that the water used in the fracking process is replaced within six months, and over ten years more than twice the amount used will be created through combustion.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce has started a Decline to Sign campaign urging voters to not sign LBF’s petitions. The Chamber’s main concern is the drastic effect a ban on fracking would have on Michigan’s economy. Thousands of good-paying jobs would be lost and families uprooted. The technological discoveries that miraculously allow us to drill thousands of feet below the earth to extract clean-burning natural gas that keeps us warm and may someday power our cars, have had a remarkable impact on our economy. Much of the shale potential in Michigan is in our backyard between Manistee and Gaylord.
Mark J. Perry, Ph.D., professor of finance and business economics at the University of Michigan-Flint School of Management, said “the shale revolution is the energy equivalent of the Berlin wall coming down.”

Perry notes the ability to retrieve gas from shale through hydraulic fracturing “has moved the U.S. closer to energy self-sufficiency and independence, reduced our dependence on foreign sources of oil from unfriendly countries, and supercharged the U.S. economy with jobs, investment, revenues to landowners and local and state governments, and lower energy costs for consumers.”

Like anything else, hydraulic fracturing is not perfect, but its positive impact far outweighs any negatives. These technological advancements should be celebrated, not banned. A ban on fracking now would be like outlawing wind turbines because thousands of birds are killed every year. Let’s move forward with more improvement and innovation in all fields of energy. Decline to Sign!