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Fracking Gets a Clean Bill of Health


The British government’s health agency is the latest body to give fracking a clean bill of health, in a move that should galvanize the country to act on its considerable reserves of shale gas. Reuters reports:

Public Health England (PHE) said in a review that any health impacts were likely to be minimal from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves the pumping of water and chemicals into dense shale formations deep underground….

“The currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to emissions associated with the shale gas extraction process are low if operations are properly run and regulated,” said John Harrison, director of PHE’s center for radiation, chemical and environmental hazards.

Don’t expect this to sway recalcitrant greens; one activist pointed out that “low risk is not the same as no risk,” which while semantically true, doesn’t belong in an energy policy discussion. Every energy source entails risks, from wind (bird deaths, anyone?) to coal, from solar (bird blindness) to, yes, shale gas. The goal, then, shouldn’t be to eliminate risk, but rather to minimize it. This new review suggests that that’s possible with shale gas.

Energy prices are the topic du jour for British politicians right now, as parties compete over who can further distance themselves from the green policies that have been pushing electricity prices higher and higher. The UK is sitting on an estimated 1.3 quadrillion cubic feet of shale gas. Drilling can be done safely, and can boost the country’s energy security.

[Oil rig image and plant image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • This is misleading. Emissions aren’t the main reason for opposing fracking. In fact, this is the first time I ever heard of that being a concern.

    I’m not a hard-core fight-to-the-death opponent of any fracking, anywhere, anytime, but I wouldn’t give it free reign. Saying there are no dangers from emissions is far from giving it a clean bill of health.

    • richard40

      Then what exactly is the danger if any. And if you say global warming I will know you are a fanatical leftie environmentalist.

      • I’m a fanatical rightwing environmentalist, not leftwing.

        The main danger is groundwater contamination. There are other concerns as well, regarding the use of water from other sources to do the fracking, but the risk of groundwater contamination is the main one as far as I’m concerned. The companies don’t have to disclose to you and me what they are putting below ground, where it can get into the groundwater. They are about as transparent as the Obama administration. There are lots of safety precautions, but nothing is foolproof. I’d say that’s a reason to move ahead slowly and carefully.

        Besides, right now there is a glut of natural gas. This is in part due to successful fracking. So why the mania to put down exploratory wells all over the remainder of the U.S. now? Those benefit the companies that are rushing to compete with each other, of course, but they have little benefit for the U.S. consumer at this time. Some of it can wait until we have more experience with fracking under our belts. And it would be nice to make the natural gas last as long as possible instead of using it up at the fastest possible rate.

        I’m concerned about global warming, too, but putting a stop to fracking is not a very honest way to deal with it.

        • richard40

          I haven’t seen much evidence of groundwater contamination either. The area that is being fracked normally is far below the groundwater aquifer. Provided the drill area is sealed properly the risk should be very small. As for why they want to open new areas, I say let the market decide. If prices get too low they will wait.

          • I haven’t seen ANY evidence of groundwater contamination. That’s not a reason not to be concerned about it. We’re taking an awful lot on faith when we accept the assurances of the fracking companies that all is contained, but they won’t tell us what the stakes are, i.e. they won’t tell us what chemicals they’re using to do their fracking.

            As to letting the market decide, that’s not so simple to do when the person who is willing to sell fracking rights is also putting his neighbors at risk.

          • richard40

            They should certainly study the possibility with very solid and thorough studies. My only concern is don’t study possibilities forever and stop any actual development. That is the way of the radical environmentalists, and we get endless studies, and no actual development.

  • Corlyss

    If Miliband gets in, fracking will be dead, period.

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