Policy: Environment & Energy

Examiner Editorial: Big Green fear-mongering scares up some election wins

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Editorial,Colorado,Ohio,Energy and Environment,Fracking

Among the winners of Tuesday's elections were fear and paranoia. In four cities in Ohio and Colorado, voters were persuaded by Big Green scare tactics to ban a safe and environmentally friendly technology that is making America energy independent. Measures banning the natural gas extraction process commonly called “fracking” were approved in three Colorado cities: Boulder, Fort Collins and Lafayette. A fourth measure in Ohio appears headed to passage as well.

Fortunately, the environmental extremists didn't win everywhere. Anti-fracking measures failed in Ohio's Youngstown and Bowling Green balloting. Fracking advocates also won in Broomfield, Colo., albeit by a narrow 51-49 percent margin. The anti-fracking forces have vowed to try again next election cycle and they will be back, with hundreds of millions of dollars from the same liberal foundations that funded this year's campaign.

What made voters in places like Boulder ban fracking were stories promoted by Big Green propagandists and enablers that claimed the process — which involves injecting water and small amounts of chemicals into shale rock formations thousands of feet underground to release oil and gas — seeps into groundwater and poisons it. The stories were undoubtedly very scary. But there’s no evidence to confirm such claims, according to the federal government. In the one case that involved minor contamination in Pennsylvania, it was related to a faulty well design, not to fracking, which has been used in thousands of wells since the 1940s.

“I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told reporters in August. There are risks, he said, as there are in any large project. But those risks are “manageable” with the proper regulations. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in April: "Fracking as a technique has been around for decades. ... I have performed the procedure myself very safely." President Obama himself has regularly touted natural gas as a “bridge to a low-carbon future.”

To counter these facts, Big Green advocates insinuate that Obama and his team have sold out. If that is the case, then so has the British government. Last month, the UK’s Department of Health issued a draft report echoing Moniz. The report found “the potential risks to public health from … the shale gas extraction process are low if operations are properly run and regulated.” So, either the natural gas industry is running a vast global conspiracy or environmentalists are merely indulging in their unreasoning hatred of all fossil fuels.

The irony here is that natural gas is cleaner-burning than other fossil fuels, producing a third to a half less emissions. It’s abundant in America, too. Contrary to Big Green claims, alternative energy sources remain decades away from being able to satisfy U.S. energy needs. So without natural gas, we’ll just use more oil and coal. It's no coincidence that the Matt Damon anti-fracking cinema flop “Promised Land” was partly financed by the United Arab Emirates of OPEC. The good folks in Colorado and Ohio who were scared into banning fracking thought they were protecting their environment. Sadly, they were actually harming it.

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