During the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, a group of English textile workers led a violent protest against the labor saving machinery that was being introduced.  They were known as Luddites.  Today, that term applies to those who fear or oppose technological change – whatever the means that make lives better.  With all of the technological advances that have been opposed throughout time, one thing has always been certain:  mankind’s desire for improvement cannot be suppressed.  However, there remain those who would turn their heads at advancement when you mention the word fracking.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, injects water and sand under high pressure, into deep underground geologic formations creating small fissures that allow the oil and gas to be pumped out. Additives – many in common household use in personal products and food – are included, generally at low concentrations of about one percent of the mix. The well is sealed with concrete and steel so the fluid is contained to only those depths where oil is located.  This is generally 7,000 to 10,000 feet underground. Hydraulic fracturing has been in use for over 60 years, with constant advancements in the technology.

California is currently sitting on the 21st Century’s equivalent of the gold found in 1849.  Black gold.  It is estimated that two-thirds of the nation’s oil shale is located in the Monterey Shale and it may be the largest reserve in the world.  The Department of Conservation (DOC) is holding a series of workshops throughout California to discuss hydraulic fracturing with the purpose of developing safety regulations.  One of those workshops was held in Sacramento and focused on a discussion draft that was put together by the DOC and the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Regulation (DOGGR).  Public comment was welcome.

The workshop was well attended, but illustrated a huge education challenge facing the State. Many participants, though living in a state known for advancing technology, were fearful of the very technology promising to raise California out of economic and social malaise. Attendees focused their comments on the potential for ground water contamination, fear of earthquakes, and the need for a ban on fracking.

In 2011, Lisa Jackson, then Administrator of the U.S. EPA stated, “I am not aware of any proven case where the fracking process has affected water, although there are investigations ongoing”.  Those ongoing investigations continue to show that fracking has not caused water contamination and where water has been contaminated it was due to other factors. Those who assert otherwise have fallen into the fallacy of “post hoc, ergo propter hoc”.  In other words, because two events occurred in succession, the first event caused the second.

According to the DOC, “Since 1947 in the United States, more than one million oil and gas wells have been hydraulically fractured with no record of triggering earthquakes”.  With regards to reports of earthquakes linked to fracking in Oklahoma, Ohio, and other states, state officials and the National Academy of Sciences have reported that they are not being caused by hydraulic fracturing, but more probably from waste water injection.  Waste water injection has been used since the 1930s.

Such a record of safety should be heralded, while simultaneously keeping regulations and their enforcement up to speed with advances in technology.  Technology that improves the human condition should not be dismissed in a myopic quest for “the precautionary principle”. Fracking has been proven safe and effective and it’s time for more Californians to educate themselves about this promising technology.

A recent study by the University of Southern California evaluated the economic benefits of developing this huge resource to California’s economy. The study found that development would:

We need energy all day, every day and we must stop taking it for granted.  While we continue to support the use and development of alternative energy, we must look at all sources of energy and that includes oil.  Hydraulic fracturing will not only produce revenue and jobs for Californians, it will lift up poor communities and help fund education.  Those are ideals that we can all stand behind.