Planet Gore

Climate Coalitions Crumble, Economic Worries to Blame

In recent months, major coalitions of big business/big labor/green lobbyists, formed to combat climate change, have begun unravel. What this portends for the future of the climate controversy is anyone’s guess, but one point is clear: The waning support for these groups is good news for jobs and sound policy.

Environmentalists founded these groups to camouflage the fact that their policies could be demonstrated as bad for the economy and job creation. Corporations and unions joined largely because cap-and-trade legislation and the push for “green jobs” seemed inevitable, and it was in their interest to work with environmentalists to shape climate policies.

But today, the climate-change headlines have been replaced by more immediate concerns over unemployment and foreclosures. As the economy took center stage, environmental groups manufactured a new threat to stir up their supporters and raise funds for their operations. This new target of their campaigns is hydraulic fracturing.

Here in Texas, hydraulic fracturing has been in use since the 1040s and is the tried-and-true technology credited with unlocking oil and natural gas in tight sands and hard rock formations. Its application in the Barnett Shale and the Eagle Ford has helped to create thousands of jobs, significantly increase oil and natural gas production, and given Texas a measure of economic prosperity that few states can match.

Texas also has passed commonsense legislation to regulate fracturing without unduly impeding its use. But in states where residents are unfamiliar with drilling and fracturing, environmental groups are using scare tactics to push for drilling moratoria. Their goal is to stop or delay drilling in shale formations, including the Marcellus Shale which is deemed to be the second largest natural gas deposit in the world.

One of the most common falsehoods is the charge that hydraulic fracturing contaminates groundwater. An ongoing study by the University of Texas has found no link between the fracturing process and groundwater pollution. Furthermore, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told Congress last year that there have been no confirmed cases.

Yet the misconceptions and falsehoods persist and are needlessly frightening the residents of several states. The accusations also are slowing the production of U.S. energy resources at a time when advanced energy technologies are poised to greatly reduce U.S. dependence on energy from unstable regions. As energy expert Daniel Yergin wrote recently, innovations including hydraulic fracturing are changing the world’s energy focus from the Middle East to the Western Hemisphere.

“For the United States,” Yergin explained, technologies and “these new sources of supply add to energy security in ways that were not anticipated . . . [demonstrating] how innovation is redrawing the map of world oil — and remaking our energy future.”

Domestic energy production also could help to light a fire under the U.S. economy. According to a Wood Mackenzie study, policies that encourage oil and natural gas production — including the Canadian oil sands, the Keystone pipeline, and other projects — could create as many as 1.4 million jobs by 2030.

But bad policies and orchestrated efforts to make people afraid of fracturing could short-circuit America’s quest for energy security. In the past 40 years, the United States has been able to produce energy and protect the environment. Fear has no place in today’s energy policies.

Sterling Burnett H. Sterling Burnett is a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and education institute in Dallas, Texas. While he works ...

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