Bob Beauprez

Late last month Chesapeake Energy Corp. quietly tested a new method of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on two well sites in Ohio. The new process uses about 10 percent of the water of typical fracking, relying, instead, primarily on carbon-dioxide foam to crack natural-gas-rich shale rock deep below the earth’s surface. 

Given that one of the usual environmentalist refrains on hydraulic fracturing is that the process uses too much water, one might imagine Chesapeake’s move would have garnered some praise from the “green” contingent. But if one thought as much, one doesn’t know environmentalist groups. The response from the Natural Resources Defense Council last week, for example, via Senior Policy Analyst Amy Mall, was to ignore the matter of water entirely. “It could be safer. It could be better. But it doesn’t reduce all the risk,” Mall said. 

Environmentalists have long slammed domestic energy’s supposed wanton waste of natural resources, depicting oil and gas companies as insatiable behemoths spitting out the bones of the landscape once they ravage it. Though Chesapeake is remaining largely mum on the pilot testing of the new fracking method, a 90-percent reduction in water use is nothing to sneeze at - least of all from an environmentalist viewpoint. So why the silence from “greenies”? 

Simply put, now that there may be a “fracking” method out there that uses so much less water, it is likely becoming clear to such organizations and their constituents that politically, the water issue may soon become a non-starter. So environmental groups are regrouping - and, to give credit where credit is due, the Natural Resources Defense Council regrouped fairly quickly, shifting the focus of their anti-fracking campaign entirely to human safety. 

Bob Beauprez

Bob Beauprez is a former member of congress, dairy farmer, community banker, real estate developer, and now a buffalo rancher in Colorado

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