Politically speaking, hydraulic fracturing is a loaded word. To those in the shale gas business and the people it employs, it means jobs and new wealth. To some in the environmental movement, it means the possibility of jeopardizing water quality and increased carbon emissions.
A new report by the Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy issued a report that examines the question of what if “fracking” were banned. It says that 14.5 million jobs would be lost by 2022 and that the cost of living would increase by $4,000 during that time. That’s because manufacturers’ overhead has dropped because of the cost of their production processes has fallen as a result of cheaper feedstock.
Specifically, the Chamber of Commerce looks at Pennsylvania and Ohio where shale gas is booming. Ohio would lose 400,000, it says. While not the key issue in the 2016 race, both states voted for Donald Trump, who favors unabashed drilling rights.
“It’s easy for politicians and activists to call for an end to hydraulic fracturing — but now we know what the consequences could be,” said Karen Harbert, chief executive of the chamber’s institute. “Without fracking, the U.S. would surrender our status as a global energy superpower.”
The Obama administration has favored natural gas because it is primarily replacing dirtier coal used for electricity. That, in turn, is reducing carbon emissions. But Obama and Clinton views natural gas a bridge fuel until renewable energy can get more of the electricity market share while Trump has no such limitations.
The aim, for the time being, is to ensure water quality and to prevent the leakage of methane into the atmosphere. While Obama’s policies were unclear on that score, a Trump administration has yet to picked — much less weigh in on the matter.
To that end, Obama would require drillers to tell the public the chemicals they are using to drill out the unconventional shale gas from the rocks where it is held underground. His administration also wants producers to capture more methane — a byproduct that can then be resold into the market.
If fracking is banned, the chamber’s institute says that businesses and consumers would pay 53% more for petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel in 2017, with prices going up further through 2022. It is also predicting that natural gas prices would increase from roughly $3 per million Btus today to $12 over five years. It also says that US electricity would double by 2022.
“While on its face, ‘keep it in the ground’ policies are intended to punish the energy industry, in reality they punish the entire economy,” said Harbert. “Bringing back energy scarcity means higher energy prices for everyone. Beyond that, banning fracking would make America much more reliant on foreign sources of energy, weakening our national security.”
The chamber’s position paper was written prior to the election — and meant to serve as a warning to whomever would serve the executive branch. And while it appears that natural gas will continue to play a prominent role in the country’s energy policy, drillers cannot afford to cut corners or it would imperil their futures.