Recently the EPA put forward it's findings after a lengthy study of the fracking process. The study used work previously done by others and added a level of analysis that was previously lacking.
The study builds on a long list of studies showing that fracking poses a very low risk to underground sources of drinking water. Linking a “landmark study” by the U.S. Department of Energy where researchers used tracers in the hydraulic fracturing fluid and no groundwater contamination was found after twelve months of monitoring with reports by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Government Accountability Office, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Groundwater Protection Council, to name just a few.
A major study like this is what the industry was waiting for, but is the public ready to digest the meaning behind the findings. When the movie Gasland first came out, we were treated to a burning faucet and land owners showing us their ruined land. Those images are what the majority of the public thinks when you bring up fracking.
Recently I attended a community outreach meeting for a drilling program in the some of the more remote areas surrounding Kenai Alaska. We had no intention of fracking in the area, yet attendees requested the company come out openly against fracking and provide a pledge to never use fracking in the area. Of course the company was in no position to make such a wide ranging statement, nor should they.
Not too long ago we were filming our response, "What the frack" and we had several industry executives on the show to discuss what fracking is doing for us. One very good point was brought up. The industry has been using this process for over 60 years, safely. It was only when fracking drove the price of natural gas down to sub $3.00 an MCF did we begin to hear complaints about fracking.
If you recall, we were in the Hydrogen revolution spearheaded by George Bush and the future would be made from water. However, as the price of natural gas went down the hopes of a water based fuel economy were dashed. Not to mention the prospects of wind, solar, and geothermal and how they were affected.
As we turned up the gas and began to see it take over as the dominant replacement fuel for power generation those heavily invested in renewable energy got nervous. As their subsidies kept coming up for votes, they got more vocal. Then we get Barak Obama as President of the United States, and he could not push the renewable agenda hard enough and we had companies like Solindra take massive government dollars and ultimately fail. Why, because gas is cheap and it works in just about everything.
With the EPA study out, we will see a fresh wave of anti-fracking activity? My guess is yes, but not for the reasons you might think. Natural gas is increasingly finding a home in the transportation industry, fueling trucks, drilling rigs, ships and mining equipment. As this bleeds into increasing use on our roads a very interesting group is going to take notice. You really cannot blend ethanol into natural gas and natural gas actually reduces emissions from transportation dramatically. The EPA is all ready changing it's ethanol mandates in a desperate attempt to cover the fact that cleaner abundant ethanol is not widely available. Additionally the corn farmers have become very used to the idea of feeding cars instead of people and livestock.
The mighty agriculture lobby may become the next big enemy of the natural gas industry, we will just have to wait and see. I wonder what kind of movie that will generate, cows keeling over from breathing methane leaked from natural gas wells on the wide open plains?