Hydraulic fracturing: What are the 3 Big Benefits?

Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are old technologies, but they have been used with increasing frequency in recent years.  With the increased use, has come publicity and a great deal of public interest.  In a prior post, I explained what hydraulic fracturing is.  What are the benefits?  The big three are

  • jobs and tax revenue
  • improved national security, and
  • environmental benefits.

One of the greatest benefits is jobs.  One of several shale formations currently being developed is the Haynesville Shale in northwestern Louisiana and east Texas.  A recent article by Mark Schleifstein of the Times Picayune reports that a Louisiana State University economist estimates that drilling in the Haynesville Shale alone generated more than 57,000 jobs in 2010.  Others states with shale drilling also have seen job growth. 

Further, a March 2010 article by AP reports that personal income of residents in 10 states has rebounded to levels higher than before the start of the recent recession.  Four of the ten are states that have significant shale drilling -- Louisiana, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and North Dakota -- and a few of the others are states that have some shale gas drilling.

 And the economic benefits have not been limited to individuals.  Local governments have benefitted.  Bruce Nolan recently reported on the effect of Haynesville activity in DeSoto Parish, which historically has been one of Louisiana's poorest parishes (Louisiana has parishes rather than counties).  DeSoto Parish now has some of the State's highest starting salaries for public school teachers.  And, despite the recent recession that has hit most of the country, DeSoto Parish is providing new buildings to 11 of the parish's 12 schools, and paying for construction of the new buildings in cash.  Further, the parish is paying cash for an animal shelter, the parish's first public park, and a convention center.  The small town of Logansport is getting a new branch library, with construction costs to be paid in cash. 

Other states that have shale gas activity also have seen job growth.  And officials in still more states, such as Ohio, are hoping to benefit from future shale drilling, as Ryan Dezember has reported.

 Shale gas (natural gas produced from shale) also can benefit our national security.  Unrest in countries that are major suppliers of crude oil demonstrate the risk of relying on oil imports.  Drilling and hydraulic fracturing of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and Wyoming have produced a surge of production of domestic oil.  Several other shale formations, such as the Marcellus, Barnett, Haynesville, Woodford, and Fayetteville contain enough natural gas to supply our country's energy needs for many years.  According to the Energy Information Agency, this country has potential natural gas reserves sufficent to supply the country for 110 years (at 2009 rates of consumption), and a third of that supply is found in shale formations.  Further, the estimated amount of shale gas reserves is increasing rapidly as companies continue to explore. 

 Finally, shale gas production can benefit the environment.  Of all the fossil fuels, natural gas is the cleanest burning.  A report prepared for the Department of Energy states that, for an equivalent amount of energy production, the combustion of natural gas produces only half the carbon dioxide of coal and a third less than oil.  The same report notes that combustion of natural gas also produces less particulate matter, less sulfur dioxide, and less nitrogen oxides than does the combustion of other fossil fuels. 

These are tremendous benefits.  In prior posts, I've discussed some of the concerns people have raised about hydraulic fracturing.  Those concerns should be taken seriously and should be addressed, but we should not let those concerns stop hydraulic fracturing. 

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