Hydraulic fracturing — “fracking,” by its more common name — is a complex issue posing complex questions. Sadly, there are too many voices on both sides offering up only simple answers.
The oil and gas industry would like us to believe the practice is 100 percent safe, 100 percent necessary and 100 percent American in the best sense of that word. They tell us there has never been any hard evidence fracking has caused any sort of environmental harm to humans, animal life or the flora immediately surrounding fracking sites.
On the other end of the spectrum are the environmentalists who would portray fracking as a harbinger of the apocalypse. They cite study after study indicating the practice creates all but uninhabitable tracts of land in what once were pristine forests and wetlands.
The truth lies somewhere in between, but with all the misinformation floating around, finding it is, at best, difficult, at worst, impossible.
The environmental crowd trots out horror stories of other states where fracking has been used for decades to tap natural gas and oil reserves that would otherwise be inaccessible. While tales of mutated, two-headed deer and frogs that glow in the dark are no doubt gross exaggerations, there have been legitimate environmental concerns, particularly with regard to water reserves and the possible contamination of same.
Nobody wants to see acres of natural forest, or even farmland, bulldozed into a well site filled with industrial equipment, trucks and noisy machinery. Nobody wants chemicals pumped into the ground, even if those chemicals are later removed and transported elsewhere for disposal.
At the same time, Michigan is in the throes of a serious energy crisis, one that has in part, at least, been mitigated by drilling already taking place on state and private lands. Also, the oil and gas industry sustains more than 10,000 jobs in the state, something to consider with the unemployment rate being what it is.
There is more than one side to this story, more than one factor to consider if one hopes to have a truly informed opinion.
When it comes to the topic of fracking, simplistic answers simply won’t cut it. Representatives from both sides of the issue need to put aside the inflammatory rhetoric and misinformation and focus instead on the facts as they apply to this state and this situation.
Fracking backers and detractors both have valid points and concerns. Regrettably, those points and concerns have — so far, at least — been all but lost in the cacophony that has of late supplanted rational discourse in this country.
Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.