Our Editorial: Fracking critical to Midwest

The Detroit News

Hillary Clinton has established an uncomfortable trend of saying outlandish things to get through this election. So while it’s hard to believe she would actually regulate fracking out of existence — as she claimed in the Democratic debate in Flint Sunday — her comments signal the country’s energy revolution is still on thin ice.

Fracking has almost single-handedly revived parts of the industrial Midwest that faced economic disaster, and helped the U.S. achieve significant energy independence. It’s also saved American consumers billions of dollars in energy costs. Clinton should be singing fracking’s praises rather than running to the left of her unshakeable rival, the socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, and his supporters. When Clinton served as secretary of state, spreading fracking to other nations was a big part of her plan for energy diplomacy.

In fact in 2010, the State Department’s International Energy Affairs manager hosted the first multilateral event under the Global Shale Gas Initiative “to discuss the importance of shale gas as a lower-carbon fuel option that can help reduce CO2 emissions while ensuring energy security and economic development in the 21st century.”

Certainly increased fracking has provided the country with abundant oil supply. Prices are at historic lows, and they’ll increase only because exploratory sites go offline due to market saturation. The fracking revolution has caused natural gas prices to drop 47 percent compared to what the price would have been prior to the fracking boom in 2013, according to the Brookings Institution.

The same report found gas bills have dropped up to $200 per year for households that use natural gas. Michigan and Ohio consumers have enjoyed even higher savings of $259 per person per year. And more broadly, all types of energy consumers—commercial, industrial and electric power consumers—experienced economic gains of $74 billion per year from fracking. But Clinton suggested she would limit fracking via regulation.

“We’ve got to regulate everything that is currently underway, and we have to have a system in place that prevents further fracking unless conditions like the ones that I just mentioned are met,” Clinton said in the debate.

Clinton has yet to face voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania, two critical states that have benefited from the shale revolution. After her Michigan loss, her fracking message might further turn off industrial state voters.

While Clinton has said fracking is insufficiently regulated, a five-year EPA study released last year found no “widespread, systemic” impacts on water sources because of fracking. Additionally, states have regulated the technology aggressively; no disasters have occurred in Michigan or elsewhere. Clinton’s statements simply feed the myths that fracking is unsafe, and that it is being forced upon communities that don’t want it. No one is arguing that localities shouldn’t be able to make their preferences known.

But banning it at the federal level would not only be an economic blunder, it would also face myriad legal challenges. Clinton’s newfound policy on fracking might offer a good sound bite, but it’s a losing strategy for Michigan and other industrial states that depend on affordable energy to run their homes and businesses.