Wednesday, May 16, 2018

John Fetterman!

I, for one, am excited by this. Should all Democratic candidates be like John Fetterman? No, but some should!
I noted with interest his support for fracking. Fine with me. Frankly, I consider the standard left opposition to fracking absurd.
I am well aware that fracking is a bete noir for many on the US left. But it should properly be viewed as progress in the current context. The most important fact to keep in mind here is that producing electricity with natural gas produces only about half the carbon dioxide emissions as using coal. Thus, since drastic price decreases for natural gas generated by the success of fracking have allowed natural gas to make considerable progress in replacing coal as an energy source, the effect on US emissions has been net positive. Indeed, US carbon dioxide emissions have actually gone down since their 2007 peak, rather than up as they were expected to do, and fracking is partly (though not solely) responsible for this.
Of course, natural gas as a fossil fuel produces far more emissions than renewables, which are essentially emissions-free. It would be nice if we could just wave a magic wand and replace all fossil fuels today, including natural gas, with clean energy sources. But we cannot do that and therefore a transition strategy is needed while fossil fuel usage is still a big part of the economy; fracking and natural gas are part of that strategy. Meanwhile, efforts to tilt the playing field toward renewables will continue and the price of clean energy will continue to drop rapidly. In the end, natural gas will go the way of other fossil fuels, but today it is playing a valuable role in accelerating the move away from coal, by far the worst polluting of these fuels.
The other main objection to fracking, besides the fact it produces a fossil fuel and is therefore bad, is that it commonly leads to negative effects on local communities like polluted drinking water and earthquakes. However, these effects are exaggerated; a 2015 EPA study found no systematic effect of fracking on local communities’ drinking water (though some incidents have occurred). Similarly, the National Academy of Sciences finds that fracking and related activities generally do not cause serious earthquake activity and the possibility of large seismic events can be avoided through appropriate precautions . This is not to say fracking entails no risks—any large-scale industrial activity involves some risks. But those posed by fracking are of the sort that are amenable to better and more uniform regulation of the industry, particularly at the federal level. Banning fracking outright, as many on the left advocate, is not justified by the level of risk and, as we have seen, is actually counter-productive from an emissions-control perspective.
The standard left stance is a classic example of letting the best be the enemy of the good. Hats off to Fetterman for standing up to this nonsense.
About this article
He’s a Bernie Sanders-endorsed steel town mayor who might be Pennsylvania’s next lieutenant governor.

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