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U.S. Chamber of Commerce Column: Truth about hydraulic fracturing

Thomas J. Donohue
President and CEO

U.S. Chamber of Commerce

In the hunt for primary election votes, the truth sometimes suffers. This election cycle the truth about hydraulic fracturing certainly has. The debate wasn’t helped recently by the administration, which will use its waning days to develop new methane emissions regulations, imposing further needless regulation on natural gas.

Here’s the truth about natural gas production: It’s safe, produces well-paying jobs, and saves consumers billions of dollars.
Safety — A University of Cincinnati study found no evidence that fracking contaminates water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Yale University reached the same conclusion, but the University of Cincinnati study is significant because natural gas opponents financed it. Additionally, methane emissions from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells are down 79% since 2005. Industry has strong financial incentives to reduce methane emissions, and it has. Fracking opponents can no longer deny science. Thanks to American innovation and ingenuity, natural gas exploration is environmentally safe.

Jobs and Economic Growth – Fracking is vital to our economy. According to the Harvard Business School, shale energy development created 2.7 million jobs and added $43 billion to the U.S. economy in 2014. The shale boom has saved consumers $780, enough to buy a new clothes dryer. While the industry faces strong headwinds, the current slump won’t last forever. Household consumer savings from natural gas are expected to increase to $1,070 by 2030. With the right policies in place, increased natural gas production could generate an additional $5.15 trillion in capital investment over the next two decades. And it could create or support an additional 3.5 million jobs, resulting in $2.52 trillion in new tax revenues for local, state, and federal governments.

Energy Security — The shale revolution has improved U.S. energy security. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S. Energy Security Risk Index, our energy security has improved for three years running primarily because we import only 10% of our energy compared with 30% a decade ago. The U.S. Energy Information Administration announced that hydraulic fracturing now accounts for 51% of U.S. crude production. Fewer imports mean we’re less reliant on potentially unfriendly regimes. Perhaps that’s why more people support fracking than oppose it.

Our nation is in the midst of a true energy revolution. After decades of fear over potential energy scarcity, we’re in an era of energy abundance. Americans deserve to hear that story, and they deserve a policy based on facts. Next time you hear a candidate attack fracking, fight back with the truth. Doing so will be good for our economy, the environment, and energy security.

— Thomas J. Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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