Fracking Was a Monumentally Stupid Idea

By Derrick Crowe
January 17, 2019

Before I get deep into this rant, I want to set a little context here. According to CNN:

Last year was the hottest for the planet’s oceans since global records began in 1958, according to an international team of scientists who track the data. Their findings were published Wednesday in the scientific journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.

The year 2018 passed the previous record set just the year before, in 2017; the top five years of ocean heat have come in the last five years. Last year continues a startling trend of global ocean warming that is a direct result of humans’ warming of the planet, the authors say.

We’re in a global emergency right now, but we have the human distraction machine in the White House and fossil fuel companies continuing to dominate world politics. And we must, must break out of this status quo if we’re going to survive–and we have to do so, forcefully, within the next decade.

That was one of the primary motivators of my run for Congress in the 2018 cycle. I was represented by a member of Congress who was a climate change science denier who also chaired the House Science Committee. All of the indicators were flashing bright red warning signs that we were headed for disaster and this guy was standing in the way. Something had to be done.

In that race, throughout the Democratic primary, fracking was a major point of contention. The eventual Democratic nominee in our race started the race by answering the question, “Do you support fracking as a progressive Democrat?” with the following answer:

“So, yes. We have to realize that bad fracking is bad for people and the planet. See, when we allow fracking to go on that doesn’t have transparency of the chemicals that are in those fluids, if we allow fracking to go on without oversight, you have to understand the damage that’s being done to the land, to the geologic [sic] underneath. If we allow that kind of fracking to go on, that’s bad. But, we have to understand that as a nation, we consume so much oil and natural gas today that a method to get off of foreign oil, specifically parts of the world that are trying to cause trouble like Venezuela, and Russia, and parts of the Middle East that are using their cheap oil to fund problems and terrorism around the world, we have the answer, and in Texas, it’s right here. Responsible fracking, with transparency and oversight, as a bridge to wean us off of oil long-term. So we can prop up the technologies that are already doing great things like solar, and wind, and overall, that was what’s best for us overall, not only our economic security, but our national security going forward.”

That way of thinking, which is extremely common in the centrist circles of the Democratic Party, to say nothing of the Republican Party, has been decisively obliterated by a new report from Oil Change International. From The Huffington Post:

Amid mounting calls to phase out fossil fuels in the face of rapidly worsening climate change, the United States is ramping up oil and gas drilling faster than any other country, threatening to add 1,000 coal plants’ worth of planet-warming gases by the middle of the century, according to a report released Wednesday.

By 2030, the U.S. is on track to produce 60 percent of the world’s new oil and gas supply, an expansion at least four times larger than in any other country. By 2050, the country’s newly tapped reserves are projected to spew 120 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

That would make it nearly impossible to keep global warming within the 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial averages, beyond which United Nations scientists forecast climate change to be catastrophic, with upward of $54 trillion in damages.

…Nearly 90 percent of new U.S. oil and gas drilling through 2050 is expected to depend on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the controversial technique that blasts bedrock with chemical- and sand-laced water, creating cracks that release previously inaccessible fuels. Upward of 60 percent of the emissions enabled by new U.S. drilling would come from two major fracking hot spots ― the Permian Basin, a massive field stretching from Texas to New Mexico; and the Appalachian Basin, encompassing most of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

Fracking is destroying our chance at a liveable future by spewing cheap carbon into the atmosphere while crowding out investments in renewable energy like wind and solar. It represents a fundamental national security threat, an economic threat, and an ecological threat by exacerbating global warming and shoving us toward a 2°C future. The people that have pushed it have brought us to the brink of catastrophe, and the groups inside D.C. who back people presumably as climate hawks who push this kind of nonsense should be ashamed of themselves.

We need an aggressive Green New Deal. We have to get off of fossil fuels yesterday, with all the effort and expense that entails, because if we don’t, the technology and infrastructure we’ve already put in place, if left to run its full life cycle and profitability in the market place, will drown our civilization.