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Recent Fracking Support Has Fractivists Nervous

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a hot topic. There has never been a middle ground on the technology; people are either for it or against it.

Was Charles Schumer Too Honest?

However, recent support for fracking, and the natural gas industry itself, might help lead the way towards a full-blown spike in the acquisition and usage of this commodity. Just this week, New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D) appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show and talked about fracking. When asked if he would support fracking in New York, he stated,

Well, I haven’t stepped on the governor’s issue on this one. He’s being very, very careful because there are environmental concerns. But overall, the Democrats throughout the country have supported fracking. The president has, most of us have, and it’s worked quite well. If the governor feels it’s going to be done carefully, I sure would.

Schumer’s comments sparked the ire of many environmentalists and state Democrats who are pushing hard to keep fracking out of New York. The fracking opponent group New Yorkers Against Fracking stated that they were “dismayed” by Schumer’s comments. They urged the Senator to re-evaluate his comments and mentioned a Pew Research poll that indicated 59% of United States’ Democrats are opposed to increases in fracking.

Even the President Likes It

In a climate change speech given last summer, President Obama touted the benefits of natural gas through advances in drilling techniques. These improvements have “helped drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly 20 years. We’ll keep working with the industry to make drilling safer and cleaner, to make sure that we’re not seeing methane emissions,” stated Obama. The president commented on how businesses can innovate and decrease pollution at the same time, sending a message to critics who think that can’t happen with fracking.

Obama praised “cleaner-burning natural gas” and advocated the resource because it creates jobs and lowers utility bills for families. That didn’t sit well with Cornell University’s Robert Howarth, who argued that the president’s support for gas “is very likely to do more to aggravate global change than to help solve it.” Natural gas is, however, only part of Obama’s climate action plan. Other aspects include boosting production of renewable energy and implementing energy efficiency standards.

Rejected in Ohio

The rejection of an Ohio fracking ban on Monday affirms the notion that many people are opening up to the idea of allowing fracking in their community, despite large opposition and some very valid concerns about its safety. This is the third time in the past year that the ban has been rejected. Armed with support from local unions and industry groups that think fracking is safe and can help create jobs, this rejection was a blow to groups trying to condemn the practice. Even though there have been recent reports of mild earthquakes in Ohio tied directly to fracking, it appears that residents of small towns are not fearful of them yet.

Union Support Has Increased

Additionally, unions have been an ever-increasing supporter of the fracking industry. Unions and local trade workers are benefitting from oil and gas production in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in these industries rose from 120,000 jobs in 2004 to 208,000 jobs last month. Alex Paris, head of a contracting firm in Pittsburgh, stated “It has created more work for our business. There’s jobs here for the first time in many, many years. Legitimate, good-paying jobs.”

Penn Environment director David Masur feels this recent surge is doing more harm than good. With criticism of the unions, Masur thinks the investment in natural gas will inevitably have the same fate as coal, and that the country’s efforts should be geared towards solar and wind.

The pursuit of fracking and further exploration of natural gas will always be up for debate. Environmentalists have every reason to question an industry that is so unwilling to change. However, for people who are jobless or see it as a lesser evil than coal, it becomes an easy decision. Hence, the recent spike in support of fracking.

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