The Science Is Settled: Fracking Makes America Strong And Healthy

Mon, August 05, 2019

Despite what anti-oil and gas activists claim, hydraulic fracturing — fracking — has proven beneficial for the environment, the economy and human health. Spurring record oil and natural gas production, the technology has helped to improve air quality, reduce emissions, create well-paying jobs and even save lives.

Record U.S. natural gas production stemming from the widespread adoption of fracking has meant an incredible decline in CO2 emissions and a substantial improvement in overall air quality. Between 2005 and 2017, U.S.-marketed natural gas production increased by more than 54 percent. Over this same period, natural gas’ share of American electricity generation grew from about 19 percent to over 31 percent, while CO2 emissions from electricity generation fell by 28 percent.

Notably, the U.S. Energy Information Administration credits the switch to natural gas for power generation for a 2.3 billion metric ton decline in CO2 emissions between 2005 and 2017. That means 63 percent of the overall decline in CO2 during that time is a direct result of natural gas use, and therefore fracking.

It’s not just CO2 emissions either. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, from 2005 to 2017 carbon monoxide, ammonia, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter (2.5 microns and 10 microns), sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compound emissions all declined. Sulfur dioxide emissions, for example, dropped over 81 percent, while nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter emissions dropped 47 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

Fracking has also proven to be a boon for communities where development is taking place. According to a University of Chicago study, shale development “generates significant revenue” for communities, as well as boosts average income by 7 percent and employment by 10 percent. Moreover, the study found that housing prices increased by an average of 6 percent after shale development began.

The multitude of jobs created by the oil and gas industry are well-paying too. The median annual income in the energy and utility sector is about $117,000, the highest of any sector, with the median income of some energy companies reaching close to $200,000.

In Midland, Texas, for example, which is in the heart of the Permian Basin, the average annual wage is the highest of any Texas metro area at $55,831 according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. That’s more than $6,000 higher than the state average. Not to mention, Midland has the lowest unemployment rate of any Texas metro at 2.2 percent — a historic low.

The Coastal Bend is also benefiting directly from the fracking boom. The Port of Corpus Christi supports more than 88,000 jobs, and it has become arguably the most important port for U.S. crude oil exports. Plans to expand the port to accommodate additional energy exports would spur an additional $40 billion in economic activity. Corpus Christi will play an outsized role in America’s path to net energy exporter status, which could happen as soon as next year.

Fracking also helps save lives. Not only are the oil and natural gas produced by fracking used to create the plastics needed for medical devices and equipment, the fuels themselves are lifesaving. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, lower heating prices reduce mortality in winter months, and the “drop in natural gas prices in the late 2000s, induced largely by the boom in shale gas production, averted 11,000 winter deaths per year in the US.”

That’s right. Fracking saves lives.

Considering the myriad benefits fracking provides, one thing is perfectly clear: fracking makes America healthier and stronger.

Steve Everley is spokesman for Texans for Natural Gas, a grassroots advocacy program with more than 400,000 supporters.