Technology and innovation will resolve the issues, real and imagined, that confront hydraulic fracturing. I arrive at that opinion because of history:

Before 1914, France had three dozen airplanes, more than all other air forces in the world put together. Germany, Britain, Italy, Russia, Japan and Austria all had no more than four planes each and the United States had just two. During the four years of World War I Britain built 55,000 planes, Germany 48,000 and Italy 20,000. During the course of the war, bombs went from nothing more than “wine bottles filled with gasoline or kerosene with a simple detonator attached” to aerial bombs weighing up to 2,200 pounds. (From One Summer, America 1927, by Bill Bryson).

(In order to boost readership I searched for similar developments in beer manufacturing. I’m sure there’s at least one. I just couldn’t find it.) 

With that out of the way, what’s the connection to energy? When faced with problems it must solve, industry, including oil and gas, develops solutions.  

A few examples:

  • Considering the total water usage for various means of electricity generation, natural gas saves water, even counting use associated with hydraulic fracturing. So says a study by the University of Texas at Austin published in Environmental Research Letters.  For every gallon of water used to produce natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, Texas saved 33 gallons of water by generating electricity with that natural gas instead of coal (in 2011, the last year for which information was available).
  • According to StateImpact (a publication of NPR stations) GasFrac is pioneering waterless fracking technology.
  • Apache Corporation has devised a way to minimize the use of fresh water in fracking, relying instead on chemical treatment of produced and brackish water.
  • EVO CNG  intends to establish CNG fueling stations for long-haul trucks and other vehicles in Fort Worth (its first), Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and El Paso, Texas.
  • According to the New Hampshire Union Leader (of all places) fracking is greener than environmentalists want to admit.

Natural gas isn’t the cure-all for our environmental and energy ills –there is no doubt that wind and solar (and bio-fuels if you don’t count corn) will help as well – but it’s a big help.

The next challenge is leaking methane. I’m sure the industry will make progress there as well.

So, let’s celebrate a clean and bright energy future!