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Rundles wrap up: Prepare for fracking fatigue

What the Frack?

We’ll all be asking that question with a sense of disbelief in the coming months as millions of ad dollars are poured out by pro-fracking forces and their opponents to convince Colorado voters that their side, and their side alone, represents truth, justice and The American Way. No matter what you believe, by November you’ll look at “Frack” as the new “F” word, guaranteed. It’ll be the subject to avoid in polite company.

It refers to hydraulic fracturing – an extraction technique that’s all the rage right now, though it’s been around in one form or another for about 70 years. Essentially, fracking involves injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into existing oil and gas wells, which somehow loosens natural gas, unrecoverable through standard wells. The process is said to be generating a boom in the natural gas market.

There is a possibility (not known as of this writing) that Gov. John Hickenlooper will call for a special session of the state legislature to stem the need for voters to decide as many as nine fracking issues for the ballot this fall. The initiatives would allow for increased local control, and would change some existing setbacks to put more distance between a fracking site and a home. But organizing the session, let alone coming to any agreement, is still a long shot.

The pro fracking side – essentially the oil and gas industry – argues that fracking is safe, creates jobs, and is helping the United States produce more energy and become less dependent on foreign sources.

The anti-fracking side – essentially environmentalists – argues that fracking is not safe (contaminates drinking water, causes earthquakes, etc.) is mostly unregulated, and pushes the use of more fossil fuels, drawing resources and attention from developing “clean” energy like wind, solar and geo-thermal, etc.

There is kind of a third side – I’ll call them the NIMBYs (Not In My Backyards) – who just don’t want the dirty business of fracking anywhere near where they live and work.
Personally, I’m torn – I have an environmental streak – but I probably come down pro energy development. I came of age at the time of the Arab Oil Embargo in the early 1970s. Whether it is good or even achievable, beginning in the Nixon Administration and in every administration since – Republican and Democrat – energy independence became and remains a highly desirable goal. I lived the alternative and it wasn’t pretty. I have always assumed there would be sacrifices and trade-offs.   

And then there’s the global warming debate. I firmly believe science supports man-made global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and I think the deniers are wearing blinders. Having said that, however, for at least the foreseeable future, our society runs on fossil fuels and present-day technologies for alternatives aren’t anywhere near supplanting that demand.

I do believe we should invest heavily in alternative fuel development, and maybe someone will figure out cold fusion, but until then we’re stuck with fossil fuels. Besides, even if we did unilaterally cease our use in the U.S., our efforts would be but a drop in the ocean of fossil-fuel-use unless and until the Chinese, Indians and most others follow suit. Fat chance.

We live, I hope, in polite company, so go ahead and frack. Just shut the frack up.        


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Jeff Rundles

Jeff Rundles is a former editor of ColoradoBiz and a regular columnist. Email him at jrundles@cobizmag.com.

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