The sound and fury of the shale gas fracking debate

Michael Giberson

Holman Jenkins’s Wall Street Journal column on the shale gas fracking debate seems to be right on the money.

Jenkin’s writes:

As a report from the Houston investment firm of Tudor Pickering shrewdly predicted in June, there will be no fracking ban. Too much money, too many jobs, too much revenue for state government is at stake. Instead: “The gold-rush-like endeavor called shale drilling will morph from trial-and-error into a more institutionalized affair. . . . Bigger companies will have a growing advantage, because they can better afford to prevent spills and leaks and correct them when they happen.”

Yep, the sound and fury of the fracking debate is really just the noise of the fracking phenomenon being domesticated.

[…]

An entire region of the country is unexpectedly being transformed by a new industry. Toes are being stepped on, but money and politics will slop around in ways designed to reduce the opposition to manageable proportions. That’s what politics is for.

A lot of noise is being made at present about environmental and other concerns surrounding fracking, but the prospect of a lot of money to be made will win out in the end. It isn’t that there are no real environmental concerns, but the environmental risks associated with development are small.  In fact, the environmental risks of developing shale gas are likely smaller than the environmental risks associated with not developing the resource.

And development allows access to a huge quantity of low-cost natural gas in a region of high energy demand. Lawmakers and utility commissions often strain to fund low-income energy assistance programs, but I’m guessing such programs are a pittance compared to what advancements in fracking technology are doing for energy consumers. If natural gas prices were still in their pre-shale gas boom relationship to world oil prices, we’d likely have $8-$9 natural gas right now instead of a NYMEX price under $4 per mmBTU.

[HT to TMc. Thanks.]

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