Statewide benefits of fracking can lead to clean air

Mike Johnston

America is breathing easier these days. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, carbon emissions have dropped to their lowest level in 20 years.

That’s no surprise. Thanks to hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — U.S. natural gas production has soared over the past decade. That’s great news, since natural gas generates half as much greenhouse gas as coal. Here in Michigan, natural gas is replacing coal and crowding out other conventional energy sources. As a result, air emissions are dropping.

Unfortunately, green activists are threatening these environmental gains. The Committee to Ban Fracking is collecting signatures to introduce a 2016 ballot initiative to ban fracking statewide.

The committee claims fracking poses a major risk to air quality, but fails to acknowledge that natural gas has led to major decreases in carbon emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency has reported that the methane emissions from hydraulically fractured gas wells have decreased 38 percent since 2005, while natural-gas production grew by 26 percent.

The Committee to Ban Fracking also warns about water contamination.

Some fact checking is in order. The head of the EPA and the secretary of the Department of Energy have concluded that there is no scientific link between fracking and water quality.

Natural gas production can grow the Michigan economy. The Wolverine State boasts the largest underground natural-gas storage capacity in the nation.

Increasing energy production has also helped Michigan by lowering oil and gas prices. In Michigan alone, state and local governments saved $8.6 million on energy. Public schools saved $49 million, enough to cover the salaries and benefits of 539 full-time teachers.

Absent regressive policies like fracking bans, America’s energy sector could generate an additional 1.4 million jobs nationwide in the next 15 years.

Instead of yielding to alarmism, Michiganians should reject its proposed ban and embrace fracking’s economic and environmental benefits.

Mike Johnston is vice president of government affairs for the Michigan Manufacturers Association.