What is fracking?
Fracking refers to a method used to extract oil or natural gas from a well in which a substance called "fracking fluid" is pumped into the pipe and ultimately into the shale rock to stimulate oil and natural gas wells inside the shale. During the practice, piping is encased in cement and drilled 6,000 feet into the ground. The cement casing is in place to protect groundwater and to contain the fracking fluid. The fracking fluid is composed of the following materials:
.5% Chemicals as follows - Sodium Chloride (used in table salt), Ethelyne Glycol (used in Windex), Borate salts (used in lipstick), Sodium Carbonate (used in detergents), Guar Gum (used to make Ice Cream) and Isopropanol (used in deodorant)
Environmentalist scare tactics often point out that more than a half dozen deadly chemicals are used in fracking and pumped directly into the groundwater. In fact, this is the first of the outright untruths that Kowalko mentioned. The reality is that unless salt, ice cream and water are deadly, the number is 3 chemicals (+ sand) and the fluid is pumped into the shale thousands of feet below the water table. In fact, despite the propaganda in the film "Gasland", in all the fracking operations in Pennsylvania, there has been no proven affect to groundwater.
Another favorite of the environmentalist scare mongers is that fracking causes earthquakes. This is another absurdity that Kowalko was peddling on the Jensen show. Earthquakes are caused by the sliding of tectonic plates. Now, there is some debate over what causes the plates to move but the majority of scientists believe that the movement is related to the earths gravity, and the rotation of the Earth. What's clear, is that explosions on the surface of the earth, or even thousands of feet below the surface do NOT cause earthquakes. In fact, the USGS among other agencies around the world have experimented with detonating nuclear weapons below the surface of the Earth and they have found that even a 5 megaton nuke (5 times the size of the largest active weapon in the U.S. arsenal), detonated 5,000 ft below the surface couldn't cause an earthquake.
As a candidate for the Delaware State Senate, I believe that I should make my opinions known on the issue. Given the factual evidence of the benefits and risks involved in fracking the ground in the Delaware River Basin, if asked, I would strongly consider the idea. Should hard factual evidence of groundwater contamination or real danger to the water table be brought to my attention, I could consider a different position but given the current reality, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't look at safe ways to increase our domestic supply of many different sources of energy.
The simple truth is that the best, cheapest and most effective way to not only reduce our reliance on foreign oil but to boost our economy is to develop a sound energy strategy. For all the talk about the outrageous "subsidies" for oil and natural gas, renewable sources take far more for far less output. Renewable energy accounts for just 8% of all sources of energy in the United States and even the most optimistic outlooks only expect it to account for a maximum of 12% of U.S. demand in coming years. Invest more money to grow them? According to the U.S Energy Information Agency, in Fiscal Year 2010, Wind got $5 Billion in direct subsidies while oil and natural gas received $654 Million in tax write-offs. Solar, received 33% MORE than wind energy did. Let me just address the issue of subsidy type here, we're talking about direct subsidies vs. tax incentives. Direct subsidies are cash payments to producers to make their product cheaper than it would normally be. This can be done through loans or grants (the more common form) and is a way that government selects the companies and industries it wants to make profitable regardless of their market value. Tax incentives are generally available to most businesses/individuals and in the case of the oil and gas companies they come in the form of write-offs for land depreciation. It's simple, the land is worth a certain amount with a certain amount of oil on it. As you remove that oil, from the ground, the land devalues. it's only practical to then allow that land owner to write-off the excess taxes on land no longer worth the original value. The argument that oil and natural gas have had their own time of direct subsidies is also not valid. There is no history of any direct subsidies to oil and gas companies, even when the industry was just getting started in the late 1800's. In fact, even the tax write-offs didn't start until 50 years AFTER the industry was born. Meanwhile, renewable sources have needed direct subsidies just to remain afloat and as we've seen with Solyndra and Fisker, even that is hit or miss.
So in the end, we need to be smart as a nation and Delaware can ill afford even higher energy costs. The Marcellus Shale and other shale formations give America a distinct advantage and a real opportunity at not only energy independence but also to reduce the cost of energy. Lowering costs to businesses and consumers would create jobs, lower the burden on families and increase our safety and security. The danger of soap, water and sand thousands of feet below the surface is minimal given the positive economic impact that would result from the fracking.
I'll give the final word to the EPA: