By: Anastasia Swearingen
A traveling troupe of misfits and malcontents have launched a nationwide campaign to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. What they lack in facts and reason they make up for with theatrics, hyperbole and millions of dollars in funding.
Nowhere is this activist circus more colorful, or radical, than Colorado. A tangled web of environmental organizations, mostly based in New York among other places, are pouring millions of dollars into ballot initiatives designed to scare voters into barring themselves from capitalizing on their own energy resources.
Under the guise of “local control,” these activists claim to be looking out for Colorado’s interests. But many of the groups don’t just want to give Coloradans the right to decide whether to allow fracking—they want to ban fracking outright.
Indeed, “local control” is merely a ploy to ban a method of energy production that has been used safely for over six decades. A major group behind these “local control” measures is deceptively named Local Control Colorado (LCC). While its spokespeople continue to deny their ballot measures are about banning fracking, it’s difficult to maintain such a ruse when LCC representatives, while on a campaign conference call organized by a group named Americans Against Fracking, chant “Ban Fracking Now!”
Ironically, the folks that are pushing this “local control” argument aren’t really local. Local Control Colorado was founded by Frack Free Colorado, which was in turn founded by two New York-based groups led by celebrity activists—Yoko Ono’s Artists Against Fracking and actor Mark Ruffalo’s Water Defense. Neither have any particular ties to Colorado.
But what’s even more troubling than their disingenuous portrayal of Colorado’s anti-fracking campaign as “local,” is the activists’ distortion of the facts in the fracking debate.
As much noise as activists make about the dangers of fracking, the reality is much different. Fracking has been used safely for decades on more than one million wells. As U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell puts it, “Fracking has been done safely for many, many years.”
Bereft of facts, anti-fracking activists are resigned to stoking fear and spreading misinformation. In New York, which prohibits high-volume fracking, Ono and her group have sought to keep the ban in place by offering baseless claims like “fracking kills” and “pretty soon there will be no more water to drink.”
While the threat of fracking is largely imagined, the dangers of banning fracking are real. In Colorado, for instance, a statewide ban on fracking could cost 68,000 jobs and $8 billion in lost economic activity, according to a study conducted on behalf of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation.
Nationally, fracking is fueling an unprecedented energy boom that has catapulted the U.S. to the top oil and gas producer in the world, eclipsing Russia and Saudi Arabia. The energy we produce here at home now satisfies 84 percent of our energy demand, up from a historic low of 69 percent in 2005. Environmental activists would have us eternally dependent on Middle East despots and monarchs.
Instead of peddling falsehoods, anti-fracking activists would be better served by presenting the facts in a way that informs rather than inflames. But don’t count on that happening any time soon. A circus fills more seats than a lecture.
Anastasia Swearingen is a senior research analyst at the Environmental Policy Alliance for the nonprofit Center for Organization Research and Education. This column originally appeared in the Gazette of Colorado Springs.