by Jay Lehr and Mike Gemmell
on December 11, 2011
An Open Letter to the Oil and Gas Industry: The Ethical Case for Fracking
Those of you in the oil and gas industry are no doubt familiar with EPA’s claim that fracking is a potential source of ground-water contamination, and that a moratorium on the use of fracking should be enacted until the EPA can study it to death. (Note: For lay people, hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is a technique used to increase oil and gas yields in petroleum-bearing formations. It involves injecting high-pressure fluids into the formation to increase its transmissive properties.)
This step — one the EPA has been hinting about for months — will be another nail in the energy industry’s coffin if its representatives do not step up and oppose this utterly unwarranted accusation. Will you rise to the challenge?
EPA and its allies in the environmental movement and media are claiming that there is now a reason to believe that fracking has contaminated the ground water in certain wells in Wyoming, even though the use of fracking was generally considered safe and noncontroversial for the past 50 years. This is an out and out fabrication, which in time will be exposed. But if a moratorium is imposed before the truth comes out, energy production in the U.S will suffer another serious setback. Lifting the moratorium may take years and millions of dollars in campaign contributions.
If the energy industry doesn’t step up – in a specific way, this time — EPA will probably get away with this. The scientific data supporting the safety of fracking is overwhelming, but science alone is not enough to stop the “what if… what if…what ifs” of the environmental lobby. There are innumerable ways to twist and distort scientific and economic data to advance the enviro agenda, stop fracking, and continue their attempts, via EPA, to cripple energy production in the U.S.
The specific argument needed is an unequivocal ethical stand defending the use of fracking technology and thereby take the high ground away from the environmental lobby. Only philosophical or ethical arguments can cut off this sort of nonsense at its root.
The ethical arguments are based on truth-telling and fairness. A moratorium on fracking is justified only as a way to slow or stop the development of new energy resources in America. It has nothing to do with protecting human health. Those reporting the story and those advocating a ban on fracking must be confronted with that truth again and again. The other side is cynical and willing to say anything to advance their anti-energy campaign. Because it is impossible to “prove a negative,” the energy industry cannot prove beyond any doubt that fracking is “safe,” anymore than car, cell phone, or soap manufacturers can prove that their products are “perfectly safe.” It is profoundly unfair to hold producers to impossible standards. It is profoundly unethical to pretend to be protecting human health when the true objectives of those mounting the anti-fracking campaign are something entirely different.
The philosophical arguments for fracking are based on the role of energy and freedom in creating and preserving a prosperous society. The energy industry must not apologize for the products and services it produces, but instead must educate the public that energy is the Master Resource (as Julian Simon wrote), it makes possible virtually all other goods and services that we need to prosper. Energy is at the root of all production, and inexpensive energy is the way out of poverty for millions of people.
The attack on fracking is a naked attack on energy, and an attack on energy is an attack on America’s prosperity and the free-enterprise system that helped to bring it about. The other side knows this, it is their rationale and motivation. Shutting down fracking is a means to this end. Their allies in the media know this and hide the true agenda from their readers. It is up to industry to make the argument itself, repeatedly and in every possible venue. Because if the attack on fracking is not about public health, as the other side says, what is it about? It is, in fact, an ideologically driven campaign against our lifestyles, our values, and our future.
This administration is out of control; there is no need to belabor that point. We can’t be everywhere at once trying to put our fingers in the dike to keep the dam from bursting. However, each of us can put our fingers in the dike in areas that we specialize in, and the energy industry MUST now do this in its area of expertise.
If industry representatives need help formulating a specific argument, please contact Dr. Jay Lehr, science director at the Heartland Institute (as well as one of the world’s leading authorities on ground-water development and protection), to help with that exercise. Based on the Heartland Institute’s more than 20 year track record in fighting for the free enterprise system, we believe it has the intellectual / scientific firepower to develop, and widely distribute, the needed message
Regards and good luck,
Dr. Jay Lehr