Fracking is greener than “green”!

By |2014-03-07T22:53:51+00:00March 7th, 2014|CFACT Insights, Guest Insights|4 Comments

Williamsport, PA — A constant, mild hiss.

That was my chief observation when I returned to Anadarko Petroleum’s Landon Pad A, a natural-gas site in Lycoming County, PA. October’s quietude deroy2was totally unlike the cyclone of equipment, personnel, and activity that had dominated this spot just four months before, when Anadarko and the American Petroleum Institute hosted journalists and policy analysts here.

Back then, engineers used a pressurized blend of 90% water, 9.5% sand, and 0.5% chemicals to crack subterranean shale deposits and awaken natural gas that has slumbered since the dinosaurs died. This hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” occurs some 6,000 feet underground. This is 5,000 feet beneath the water table – deep enough to bury three Empire State Buildings.

This spot now resembles the scene of a once-raging party that has been cleared out and cleaned up. The trucks have driven off. Dozens of workers have moved on. The cranes are gone. What remains are three acres of gravel-covered farmland, five completed wells, rising three to six feet above the soil, and a steady, low-volume whoosh.

This is the sound of natural gas being captured; counted by a “cash register” gauge that measures output and thus royalties; and conveyed via yellow pipes into the broader natural-gas market. The result? Warm bedrooms on crisp nights and hot showers on cold mornings.

Despite the shrill complaints of fracking foes, this productive but tranquil patch demonstrates how much greener fracking is than other power sources – even “green” ones.

* Fracking should soothe those who fret about CO2.

Since 2002, carbon dioxide output has grown 32% globally, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Robert Bryce wrote for Bloomberg View in September. “In the U.S., meanwhile, CO2 emissions were 8% lower in 2012 than they were in 2002, largely due to a surge in shale gas production, which has reduced coal use.” Indeed, fracking has helped America keep its unratified Kyoto Protocol commitments while other countries decry so-called global warming and yet continue boosting CO2.

New York City, home of über-frackophobe Yoko Ono, is benefiting enormously from fracking.

“New York has the cleanest air now of any major American city,” Gotham mayor Michael Bloomberg told journalists on September 26. Thanks to both purer heating oil in local buildings and the conversion of others to natural gas fracked along the Marcellus Shale, New York’s air has not been this clear in 50 years, officials say.

As the Associated Press’s Deepti Hajela reported, decreases in sulfur dioxide, soot, and other pollutants are preventing 2,000 emergency-room visits and 800 deaths annually. This concrete positive vastly outweighs the theoretical risk that fracking someday, somewhere possibly might taint someone’s drinking water – maybe.

Murdock1* Water is a precious resource. So, conservationists should smile at how little water fracking requires – compared to other energy sources. According to the U.S. Energy Department and the Ground Water Protection Council, it typically takes 3 gallons of water to produce 1 million British thermal units of energy from deep-shale natural gas/fracking.

Atomic energy requires 11 gal/MMBTU. Coal: 23 gallons. Corn ethanol? A whopping 15,800 gallons. And soy biodiesel requires nearly triple that amount: 44,500 gal/MMBTU. That’s 14,833 times the water needed for fracking.

But what about groundwater pollution? The hysteria that fracking poisons drinking water lacks one key ingredient: evidence.

As former EPA chief Lisa Jackson testified before Congress  in May 2011: “I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.” Even New York State’s politically frackophobic Andrew Cuomo administration concluded that “no significant adverse impact to water resources is likely to occur due to underground vertical migration of fracturing fluids through the shale formations.” A December 2011 Department of Environmental Conservation draft report added that: “(T)here is no likelihood of significant adverse impacts from the underground migration of fracturing fluids.”

* Protecting habitat is another key eco-priority. Fracking succeeds here, too. An SAIC/RW Beck study found that natural-gas companies use 0.4 acre of Murdock2land to generate a year’s supply of electricity for 1,000 households. Nuclear power requires 0.7 acre. Coal consumes 0.75 acre. Wind power needs 6 acres. And solar cells require 8.4 acres to fuel 1,000 households annually. This is 21 times the habitat impact of natural gas. So, if you are a Gila monster or a Joshua tree, cheer fracking and hiss solar.

* What about wildlife?

Anadarko’s Brad Milliken says rattlesnakes are protected in Pennsylvania, unlike in  his home state of Texas. The company, Milliken says, retains “what I would call a rattlesnake wrangler. If we see a snake, we call him up, and they relocate the snake temporarily,” until work has been completed. “All of our contractors understand not to disturb the snakes.”

Before installing a new pipeline, Anadarko checks for Indiana bats, as they migrate in May and June. Obstructing their flight paths “changes their way of life and can be detrimental to their health,” Milliken explains. In such cases, he says, Anadarko would reroute a pipeline rather than threaten these bats.

In contrast, the “Earth friendly,” taxpayer-subsidized wind industry slaughters thousands, perhaps millions, of bats (including Indiana bats) unlucky enough to fly into the giant Cuisinarts that are their turbines. (My friend Paul Driessen of the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) has documented this carnage with tragic eloquence.)

Nearly a century of horror movies have equated bats with Dracula. Too bad. These hideous creatures do a beautiful thing: Gobble mosquitoes. By one estimate, a brown bat devours nearly 8,700 such insects annually. So, ironically, fracking protects bats, while “ecologically sensitive” wind turbines are butchering bats.

This is great news for mosquitoes, which do suck human blood. It’s not such great news for people who fall victim to West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.

Could gas producers frack even more cleanly? Innovation could and gradually will yield still safer and more Earth-friendly production methods. Cal Cooper of the Apache Corporation wisely proposed at a Manhattan Institute energy policy conference that gas companies “could transport fracking chemicals in powder form and mix them with water at production sites, rather than ship them around in liquid form, which risks a spill in transit.”

Rather than blindly decry fracking, environmentalists should encourage more ideas like Cooper’s. Beyond that, they should embrace fracking for being easy on the air, water, land, and wildlife – in most cases far easier than the “sustainable” energy sources that ecologists adore.


Deroy Murdock revisited natural-gas production facilities near Williamsport, PA, on an October fact-finding tour arranged by Energy in Depth and the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.  An earlier version of this article appeared on National Review Online:


  1. jameshrust March 8, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    I question some of the data in this report. The diagram indicated 8.4 acres solar PV could provide electricity to 1000 homes. For the U. S., the annual electricity use is at least 6 MWatt-hours per year. It takes 6 acres to support a 1 MW solar plant. So this solar plant would be 1.4 MW. Out in the deserts of CA, solar plants yield 1800 MW-hours per year. So the plant would produce 2520 MW-hours annul. This plant could support 420 homes in the best location in the country. Same problem with wind farms. It takes typically 50 acres to support one MW wind farm; which in a good location would produce 2600 MW-hours annual. The 6 acre wind farm would produce 312 MW-hours. This would support 52 homes.
    I don’t know how to evaluate the acreage for the other energy sources; but I believe 0.8 acres of biomass to support 1000 homes is off a mile. Someone in New England that heats their homes with wood would understand what I am writing. They probably cut down one tenth acres of trees per year.
    James H. Rust

  2. knowsit March 8, 2014 at 9:15 PM

    We will be losing this fight, unless we go on the offensive, are highlighting the
    tremendous beneficial effects of CO2 increase in the air since the industrial
    revolution in the growth of plants, and by extension all food for humans and

    CO2 in the air is the gas that is necessary for all plant life to grow, and by extension for all food for humans and animals. Because of the world wide industrialization over the last 75 years, it increased over the same 75 years by ~35% to ~0.35% in the air, but is still less than 2% of the 20% of oxygen in the air all humans and animals, including fish, breath.

    This increase in CO2 resulted in an equivalent 35% increase of food production, without it there would be increasing food shortages and potential mass starvation which Obama’s science Czar John Holdren predicted in a book he co-authored with environmental extremist Paul and Ann Ehrlich in 1977.

    So the counter argument to Obama and his army of Greens needs to be they are trying to starve the poor of this world in developing nations, who are already suffering wide spread mal-nourishment from the high cost of high quality food.

    The best way to reduce squalor and poverty is adequate nourishment, and this is what Obama is actively sabotaging world wide with his war on CO2 in the air.

  3. ShakaShawn March 11, 2014 at 5:41 PM

    This is why I am a progressive and not a liberal or conservative. You can get all crazy and say ban fracking or you can go the other way and say drill baby drill. The reality and underlying problem in today’s politics whether talking about environment, climate, healthcare, or any other issue is that they are not so black and white. We need to consider all the options. I agree with 99% of this article but there are major issues with natural gas companies across the nation drilling willy nilly and to say that there is no evidence that the toxic soup they pump millions of gallons of into the earth damages ground water or anything else is just insane. They are asking us to prove that it does harm the ground water supply when they should be proving it doesn’t. Can they say that every ounce of undisclosed flammable and toxic cocktail pumped into the ground is safely removed? Can they say that the fractures created are controlled and therefor the gas that is released is only released where they want it and not on the neighboring property where some unsuspecting land owner will find it seeping out of the ground or into their well? There are hundreds and hundreds of cases where people are being negatively affected by these wells. The only reason the Natural Gas companies can make the claim that there people are “hysterical” and claim they lack evidence is the same reason cigarette companies got away with their claims for so long. How do you prove without a shadow of a doubt? Heer is the scenario: One day my water was fine and then the neighbors lease their ground rights to natural gas and fracking begins, then they wake up one day and can light their taps on fire. How does a struggling family prove that it was the fracking and not some other geological occurrence? Should a poor family or any family have to prove in this manner or should the natural gas company have to prove that they are not causing the problem? The Natural Gas industry is the big filthy rich company that has the resources, lawyers, and money to fight this all day every day until every last drop is pumped from the ground. They have the money to frame the argument. Then when a film student graduate decides to make a documentary of his personal experience with this. Giving a voice to the people genuinely affected by problem. They have the money to buy a counter documentary, funding doctors, companies, and anyone who will go along with their view. No one argues that solar takes acreage, or that wind turbines kill flying animals, or that coal pollutes the air, and nuclear, uses enormous amounts of water, but that doesn’t mean we can drill baby drill without seriously considering the reality that you are pumping millions of harmful chemicals into the very ground we drink from and grow our food in. That you cannot control fracking from releasing gas on neighboring property. That yes, one well only takes .4 acre to produce 1000 homes with electricity, but they don’t just put one well. If we let them they would dot every .4 acre space in a constant grid of wells wherever they could. As it is, they are exempt from the Clean Water Act because of Bush and Cheney (a clear conflict of interest) and because of their policies Obama has allowed more natural gas drilling than anyone in history. Now, there is significant evidence that the most fracked regions are experience unprecedented earthquakes. When Dallas/Fort Worth Airport needed to stop these quakes they stopped hydraulic fracking i the area and the earthquakes stopped. Right now Oklahoma is experiencing earthquakes that are causing damage to buildings. Everyone’s homeowners insurance is going to go up due to these risks. If they don’t have earthquake insurance then they are not covered. Now you have someone profiting from fracking, causing damage to large swaths of people, increasing insurance costs for everyone and paying no price for it themselves. This is a huge issue with two very thoughtful sides to the argument that need considered.

  4. Scottar March 30, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    Murdock- you da man!

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