In an interview for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Steven Chu, President Obama’s Secretary of Energy from 2009 to 2013, touted the environmental and energy security benefits of fracking. The Nobel laureate also easily debunked the politically motivated claims of the “Keep-It-In-The-Ground” movement.
When he was asked if he had wished he had helped to tighten regulations on fracking and made it “more difficult to produce natural gas” while he was at the Department of Energy, Chu said, “Well, I have a different view on fracking actually.” Chu went on to explain that natural gas is responsible for reducing our carbon emission in the United States. As he put it,
“And then the question is: What would you want? Fracking and new natural gas resources have enabled us to switch from coal to natural gas – which is much cleaner, and decreases carbon emissions.”
Chu also signaled that he agrees with a comprehensive 2015 EPA groundwater study, which found “no widespread, systemic impacts” to water resources from fracking. As he said,
“most fracking is done at great depths, at about 4,000 or 5,000 feet. And you can really control how much you fracture. The issue is whether you allow a frack to go all the way to the surface and cause a leak – which is very, very unusual…There are other issues with fracking, having to do with the water that is being used, but the amount of water involved is very minor.”
In recent years, natural gas production in the United States has skyrocketed thanks to improved fracking technology. It has also led to job creation and increased energy independence – a key priority of the Obama administration given the volatility of oil prices and sometimes dubious oil trade partners.
“Now,” says Chu, “because of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, our oil production has gone up again. We’ve exceeded Russia. We’re second only to Saudi Arabia in oil production per year.”
The benefits of fracking, according to Chu, are numerous. It’s abundant, has contributed to a boost in the U.S. economy, and is an excellent, low-risk alternative fossil fuel that will enable the United States to reach its climate goals.
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