Anything as big and as promising as shale gas is bound to be complicated. This energy source has much to recommend it. To begin with, the U.S. has a lot of it, enough to meet current natural gas consumption for 35 years.
The increase in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the technique used to tap natural gas from shale, brought down the fuel’s price by 32 percent last year, to less than $3 per million Btu. Expanding the practice — to New York State, for example, which now has a moratorium on it — could help lessen American use of coal and oil to generate electricity and heat. That would reduce U.S. dependence on Mideast crude and lower greenhouse-gas emissions and acid rain.
Then there are the jobs that fracking has created, especially in parts of the U.S. hit hard by the economic slowdown. The number of people who work in the shale gas industry is expected to rise from 600,000 to 1.6 million by 2035, according to a study by IHS Global Insight for America’s Natural Gas Alliance, a trade group.
Yet, as the increasingly heated debate shows, the public still has well-founded concerns about the safety of fracking. None justify the level of anti-fracking rhetoric among some critics, who seem to think the energy they consume can be magically conjured without so much as the eyesore of a drilling platform. But some legitimate issues need to be addressed.