3 Big Reasons You Should Love Fracking

Photo credit: Chesapeake Energy.

Natural gas was one of the big winners in President Obama's recent State of the Union address. The president noted that "America is closer to energy independence than we've been in decades." He went on to say that "one of the reasons why is natural gas – if extracted safely, it's the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change."

That said, without fracking the natural gas that is changing our nation for the good would still be stuck in rocks a mile or more below the surface. As the president said, when done safely, natural gas extraction is unleashing a powerful force for positive change on our economy. Seen in that light, here are three big reasons Americans should learn to love and not loathe fracking.

Plunging carbon footprint
U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption are at the lowest level since 1994. Overall, carbon emissions from energy have fallen for five straight years. Natural gas, as the president pointed out, is having a direct impact as natural gas power generation is replacing dirtier coal power on a near 1-to-1 ratio.

In addition to a big reduction in carbon emissions, the overall carbon footprint of natural gas extraction is becoming smaller. Pad drilling enables an energy company like Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK  ) to drill between four and 20 wells on a single pad instead of building up to 20 separate well pads. Just four years ago, 77% of the wells Chesapeake Energy drilled were on single well pads, and today that number is down to just 44%. Not only is this saving Chesapeake Energy and its peers millions, but it's also reducing that literal footprint of well sites, as well as the carbon footprint of the process, by reducing the number of truck trips needed to drill these wells.

America is making a comeback
The manufacturing industry has announced more than 100 projects representing $80 billion to $100 billion in new investments thanks to fracking. The projects range from petrochemical plants to fertilizer manufacturers and are only possible thanks to cheap and abundant natural gas that's only unlocked by fracking.


Photo credit: Chesapeake Energy.

Fracking has fueled a 41% increase in energy-related jobs since the end of the Great Recession. The industry now supports 2.1 million jobs. It's expected to add another 1.1 million new jobs by the end of the decade.

On top of that, it's estimated that fracking has enabled the U.S. to add 530,000 manufacturing jobs since 2010 as companies took advantage of cheaper natural gas. Some analysts predict that another 5 million manufacturing jobs could be added to the economy by 2020 thanks to cheap natural gas that was unlocked by fracking.

Continual improvements to protect the environment and people
Fracking has come a long way since Halliburton (NYSE: HAL  ) completed the first experimental fracturing operations in 1947. Over the course of drilling more than a million wells, the industry has continued to refine the process. Today's process of fracking is vastly improved from just a few years ago.

Halliburton is one of the companies leading the way to make fracking even better. The company has developed safer fracking fluids that are sourced with ingredients found in the food industry. The fluid is safe enough that Halliburton executives have even taken a sip at a conference.

Halliburton is also pioneering a water recycling solution that will enable it to frack new wells using water that is produced from other wells it fracked. The company hopes that by recycling it can reduce the freshwater usage in its fracking operations by up to 25% by the end of this year.

Others are working on sustainable fracking initiatives. These will limit flaring, cut down on emissions, and reduce toxic chemicals used in fracking operations, as well as a whole host of other voluntary standards to clean up the process. That's in addition to stronger regulations that some states are placing on water testing and emissions. Bottom line: Fracking is getting a whole lot safer than many of its detractors realize.

Final thoughts
Fracking isn't perfect, but it is getting better. Many of the reasons the process is hated have either been disproved or have vastly improved over the years. That's why more Americans need to learn to love fracking, as it's doing a lot more good than many people realize.

Learn more about America's energy boom
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Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (6)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 1:36 PM, cdon628 wrote:

    Two questions:

    1. How much do you get paid by the natural gas industry?

    2. How do you sleep at night?

  • Report this Comment On February 16, 2014, at 7:16 PM, bshoward112 wrote:

    This article does not address the very dire consequences of fracking. While the industry has gotten better at producing natural gas, there has been little progress in dealing with the high levels of pollution generated by fracking. The energy industry likes to claim fracking occurs very deep and should "in theory" not affect ground water. While there is some evidence ground water IS impacted from below, that argument deflects any discussion of the 10s of thousands of gallons of high toxic fracking-fluids that are returned to the surface by the process, stored in the open and often seep back to the ground or end up in the local streams. Be prepared for the pollution of the Hudson, Delaware, and Susquehanha watersheds that provide the drinking water for 70 million Americans.

  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 7:25 AM, TMFmd19 wrote:

    @cdon628 -

    1. Not a penny

    2. Really well, thanks for asking.


    “To my knowledge, I still have not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater.” - Ernest Moniz, Secretary of U.S. Dept. of Energy

    “This new study is important in terms of finding no significant effects on groundwater quality from shale gas development within the area of sampling." U.S. Geological Survey

    The list goes on, and on...and on:


  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 10:16 AM, yellowjester wrote:

    And the only reason you need to hate fracking....


  • Report this Comment On February 17, 2014, at 2:23 PM, Brokenwhistle wrote:

    "Love Fracking" ? Motley or not, you are definitely FOOLS !!!

  • Report this Comment On February 18, 2014, at 2:55 PM, txgirlatheart wrote:

    Even beyond the question of safety or environmental issues, there's a larger issue at hand -- quality of life. I live in a rural area where fracking boomed 3 years ago. And then they left. What they left were potholes, broken bridges, and a broken infrastructure that struggled poorly to meet its needs. There's the threat of them returning and what we face is clogged rural roadways that endanger local drivers, increased costs in food and housing, and an influx of a workforce that is not local -- just one of the many promises the fracking industry broke with the small communities built on the shale to be fracked.

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Matt DiLallo

Matthew is a Senior Energy and Materials Specialist with The Motley Fool. He graduated from the Liberty University with a degree in Biblical Studies and a Masters of Business Administration. You can follow him on Twitter for the latest news and analysis of the energy and materials industries:

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