I've seen first-hand the positive effects that natural gas fracking has had on my wallet. My heating and electric bills have been heading lower for years. One study that I read said that the average American household was saving $425 to $725 per year all because of fracking. That same study suggested that total cost savings could reach an average of more than $1,200 per household by 2020 as natural gas replaces more coal and oil. This personal impact on my wallet is one reason why I've long been a supporter of the controversial process.
On the other hand, I'm not personally a fan of Obamacare. Sure, like fracking it has done some good. But my problem is that its implementation is costing me nearly as much money as fracking has saved. The controversial law had a direct and personal impact on my health insurance plan. It was nearly dropped and although I now get to keep a plan my wife and I struggled to obtain in the first place we have to pay extra $467.40 a year for it.
The math is pretty simple so in my mind, Obamacare has just taken away the money that fracking had saved me. That gives me a pretty compelling rationale to support one controversial topic while opposing the other.
The plot thickens
Therein lies the problem for most Americans. Our opinion on a matter, more often than not, is based on how it personally affects us or someone we know. The quote that led off the article by Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion really does sum up how we make decisions. It is so true that, "Very often in making a decision about someone or something, we don't use all of the relevant available information; we use, instead, only a single highly representative piece of the total."
What's just as true is the sentence that followed in his book. He noted that, "and an isolated piece of information, even though it normally councils us correctly, can lead us to make clearly stupid mistakes – mistakes that, when exploited by clever others, leave us looking silly or worse."
Think about that one for a moment.
Get to know the whole story
All too often we make judgment calls about a controversial subject or a person based upon once piece of data. More often than not we fail to learn the rest of the story. Take fracking for example, few people know its history, that the process was developed in the late 1940s and has already been used on more than a million wells. Instead, what we hear about are the worries about water, chemicals, earthquakes and the noise. All of which are valid worries, don't get me wrong, though there are plenty of misconceptions about the process.
That said, it is a whole lot easier for me to be pro-fracking. No one is drilling in my backyard. My water is fine. Not only that, but I know a lot more about the industry than most Americans. I've spend much time learning about how companies like Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK) are recycling an increasing amount of the water used in fracking. Not only that, but the company is reducing its use of harmful chemicals in the process.
I know all about Halliburton's (NYSE:HAL) drive to recycle 25% of the water used in fracking by the end of this year. I've taken a closer look at its CleanStim fracking fluid and know that 100% of its ingredients are sourced from the food industry. I even read the story that its executives drank some of the fluid at a conference to prove that it wasn't harmful.
At the same time, I have also taken the time to watch Gasland, Promise Land and other films. I've read countless articles that are negative on the process. I've done all of this in an effort to not allow an isolated piece of information, in this case the money I've saved, be the sole reason I have a stance on a subject.
A call to action
Today we live in a nation that's becoming divided on every subject. All too often those divisions are based upon one isolated piece of information that we use to fuel that division. Because of this we really do look silly yelling and interrupting each other on the TV each day. The challenge, then, is to take a step back this year and simply get to know the other side of the story. That way we as a nation might actually begin to work together to find areas of agreement instead of focusing in on the one area where we disagree.
Fool contributor Matt DiLallo has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Halliburton. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.