An unexpected endorsement for fracking from President Obama is a setback to the clean water movement.
In the 2012 State of the Union address, President Obama provided an unexpected endorsement for the controversial natural gas extraction method known as fracking. While the President stated “we don’t have to choose between our environment and economy,” advocacy groups against fracking protest that many Americans have to make that choice each day. While Obama’s argument that “development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper” is valid, he leaves out the point that production of this natural gas generates radioactive and often biohazardous wastewater, poisoning the drinking water we rely on each day.
It was an interesting revelation that the U.S. government helped created the technologies that allow for natural gas extraction via fracking methods. The President almost bragged about this fact when saying “and by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of thirty years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock.” In a classic case of one hand not talking to the other, the EPA has been working to regulate and shutdown certain fracking practices due to the pollution it leaves behind. This begs the question of how many more tax dollars will be spent on programs meant to focus on fossil fuel extraction rather renewable energy sources?
While it was surprising to see the level of support President Obama gave for the fracking methods he did give an indication of positive change. Obama stated “I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use,” which is a tiny step in the right direction. One of the toughest issues with fracking is that the fluid used to extract the natural gas contains up to 630 unique chemicals, some of them proven to cause cancer. However, since companies feel this chemical cocktail is secret and can hurt their business if disclosed nobody really knows what is being pumped into the ground. There was no mention of requiring the disclosure for drilling on private property, which leaves a significant hole in the plan outlined.
While fracking remains controversial, the practice continues, causing continued pollution of our most precious resource. We can only hope that the President will live up to his promise that “America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.”
Image by: Pete Souza