- - Friday, April 11, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

At 8 percent, the California unemployment rate is higher than in all but three other states. The Legislature apparently likes it that way. The lawmakers are on their way to banning a technology that could create 200,000 jobs and inject millions of dollars into the state’s economy.

A bill making its way through the Legislature would prohibit fracking — at least temporarily. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a decades-old method of forcing a high-velocity mixture of water, sand and chemicals through rock formations to liberate deposits of oil and gas. This technique has safely and successfully tapped abundant natural resources from more than 1,500 wells in the state.

Last month, the California Democratic Convention unanimously approved a plank in its platform urging the state to enact the ban, arguing that fracking causes birth defects, pollutes groundwater and even triggers earthquakes. These Democrats say policymakers need time to determine whether and when fracking can be allowed to resume later. Such caution might be plausible but for the mountain of research already available establishing the safety of fracking.

Anti-fracking zealots blame such drilling for a variety of bad things, even employing junk science to claim fracking causes cancer. Like a ghost story told around a campfire, the “fracking causes birth defects” tale was spun by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health, citing data from the Colorado Department of Public Health.

When the health department looked at the report, it insisted on a disclaimer: “[This agency] specifically disclaims responsibility for any analyses, interpretations or conclusions.”

Another claim is that fracking chemicals contaminate drinking water, even making what comes out of the kitchen faucet flammable. President Obama’s former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Lisa Jackson, conceded to Congress, however, that she knew of no “proven case where the fracking process” affects water.

The goofiest claim is that fracking gives a sharp elbow to the planet and makes the earth tremble. A U.S. Geological Survey scientist who investigated the claim told National Public Radio that “we find no evidence that fracking is related to the occurrence of earthquakes.”

Environmentalists insist they argue on the side of science. But green activists trying to shut down fracking have traded settled science for a mountain of genuine malarkey. Fracking has been so successful in revitalizing the energy sector that shutting it down now will create more unemployment and threaten America’s growing energy independence.

Last year, fracking supported 2.1 million jobs and contributed $284 billion to the U.S. economy. As a result, the United States achieved the highest levels of oil production in 25 years. In 2005, America imported 60 percent of its petroleum and that number is down now to 28 percent. The increase in domestic crude oil and natural-gas production means America doesn’t have to defer to the feelings of Middle Eastern sheiks.

Thoughtful debate about the benefits and drawbacks of fracking should be encouraged in California. The case for fracking is strong. Superstition and fear-mongering isn’t, and unfounded fear must not stand in the way of the most promising and exciting energy revolution since the famous Spindletop gusher set off the Texas oil boom more than a century ago.

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