Despite recent losses at the polls, fracking is slowly starting to garner more public support. A recent poll of 1,001 adults by Robert Morris University Polling Institute showed that 56% supported hydraulic fracturing. Further, those with an opinion on fracking strongly believed that it has the potential to fuel economic growth, and move the country toward energy independence.
The big sticking point for many are the environmental concerns. Of those polled, 60% said that the environmental impact of gas drilling outweighs energy independence and reduction in energy bills. That said, the public does appear to be softening its stance against fracking. According to Robert Morris, a similar poll three years ago would have only found a third of those polled in support of fracking.
This is an important shift for the industry, which has struggled with image problems. Energy companies like Range Resources (NYSE: RRC ) have worked hard to engage with the public by becoming more of a visible part of the community. Range Resources, for example, has created a website to educate the public and address their concerns. The company is visible on everything from billboards to baseball games in an effort to show the public how drilling can benefit a community.
The industry has also done an admirable job to go out of its way to fix issues that have arisen from drilling. For example, Cabot Oil & Gas (NYSE: COG ) came under a lot of pressure a few years ago after some water wells in Pennsylvania were believed to be contaminated by its fracking activities in the area. Cabot spent a lot of money and time to remediate the problem. It eventually reached a settlement with many of those who believed they were affected by its activities, and the company has continued to drill in the region.
It seems that the critics are being silenced as each new well is drilled. The industry has proven, time and again, that the process is safe. However, it's not like the industry hasn't been listening to its critics. Companies like Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK ) have worked to continually improve the process to make it even safer.
One area that Chesapeake Energy has focused on is recycling the water it uses in the fracking process, not only to silence critics, but because it's proving to be a good business decision. The company's Aqua Renew program enables it to recycle 97% of the wastewater associated in its Marcellus North operations, 52% in the Marcellus South, and 89% in the Utica Shale area. That's saving millions of gallons of freshwater, and a lot of money for Chesapeake.
Further, Chesapeake Energy and oil-field service companies like Halliburton (NYSE: HAL ) have focused on changing the chemicals used in the fracking process. Chesapeake's Green Frac initiative is working to eliminate many of the additives that cause concern. Further, Halliburton's CleanStim hydraulic fracturing fluid is completely sourced with ingredients commonly found in the food industry. The fluid is so safe that several Halliburton executives have tasted it to prove that it is harmless.
The industry really has come a long way in just a few short years; so has the general public, which is increasingly seeing that fracking is a lot safer than many first believed. That shift is an important one for the industry as it means that America's drilling boom has the potential to grow into new areas instead of seeing more doors close.
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