Fracking is not energy answer for Americans

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Energy has played a significant role in economics since the advent of the Industrial Revolution. As a result, all the world’s economics depend heavily on energy.

During the 1973 oil crisis, the international Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) embargoed oil, causing a 400 percent increase in its price. This price hike hit the U.S. economy brutally, with central banks scrambling to cut interest rates to avoid the sharp decrease in consumption and investment. The crisis showed how dependent the United States was on the energy market, and why the nation needed to find an alternative to importing oil.

Fast forward a few years, and one will find that the United States is still being accused of waging war in Iraq in order to gain access to the country’s oil reserves. Moreover, the OPEC crisis led to the United States searching for natural gas within domestic borders. On a parallel timeline, the unforgettable Cold War, along with the nuclear revolution that accompanied it, revealed both the potential of nuclear power and its associated drawbacks.

When the United States found massive domestic shale gas reserves, economists immediately began to forecast what this meant for the future of energy. There are several reasons as to why the so-called “shale revolution” is economically significant. Many of America’s oil giants have long deserted the nation’s interior, choosing instead to seek their fortunes abroad and offshore. Shale gas extraction by fracking is allowing new, specialized firms to become established, hence disrupting the oligopoly that has dominated the energy market for so long. The rise of these firms will spur economic growth, creating jobs and new sectors in the energy industry. Economists predict the shale revolution to persist as methods are streamlined and more natural gas reserves found.

But consider this: two weeks ago, the United Nations published a report declaring that climate change and environmental destruction is becoming irreversible and that the next decade is decisive for the future of the global climate and its stability; the negative impact that humans have had on the environment can no longer be denied by politicians.

The fact that fracking has started to receive so much attention, and the fact that many see it as a possible catalyst for the stuttering American economy, means that many politicians and economists remain shortsighted. There are bigger things at stake here — namely the livelihood of people for the rest of this century and beyond.

Nuclear energy is perhaps the most feasible option we have right now, while solar and wind energy require further research. In a recent post two professors and researchers at the Earth Institute at Columbia University state that nuclear energy allows humans to mitigate otherwise unavoidable climate effects from fossil fuels, including natural gas.

Indeed, the Fukushima and Three Mile Island crises show that we still have work to do, and that nuclear energy brings with it a massive amount of risk, but it also brings a massive amount of benefit. The saying “desperate times call for desperate measures” has never been more true.

Many lawmakers recognize the disparity between economic and environmental motivations. Several senators have taken steps to reignite nuclear innovation in order to make it safer and more accessible across the continental United States through the proposal of a bill. The bill, labeled the Nuclear Waste Administration Act, would launch more potential sites for storage and disposal facilities. The senators behind this bill cross party lines, making this proposal a bipartisan effort, which is especially encouraging.

These steps forward are positive ones which need to be followed through, as fracking does not represent an environmentally conscious approach to the economic future of the United States.