Fracked gas production surged between 2000 and 2018, which pushed prices to their lowest levels in decades. Now frackers are in the midst of a gas glut and they cannot profit off of the excess cheap gas without new outlets to sop up the surplus supply.
Persistently low prices have challenged the economic viability of the fracking industry’s continuous and steady expansion. So now, frackers are banking on polluting partnerships with three industrial players: the petrochemical and plastic industries that use natural gas liquids as feedstock for manufacturing; gas exporters building liquefied natural gas terminals to ship gas overseas; and the electric power industry, which is using fracked gas for unnecessary gas-fired power plants. These industries are throwing an economic lifeline to the fracking industry, and it’s all in service of creating new demand for what has been becoming a sinking investment.
Why the rush?
Right now the basic economic problem for the fracking industry is that overproduction has created a gas glut that greatly outpaces domestic demand. By building infrastructure that relies on natural gas, frackers can keep drilling and cement us into a fossil-fueled future.
But across the country activists and organizations like Food & Water Watch are becoming more successful at shutting down dirty infrastructure projects and getting fracking banned. With the climate change report released in 2018 from the United Nations, it’s clear that cutting out the biggest contributors to carbon emissions is necessary to stave off the worst effects of climate change.
We also know that the buildout of these proposed and planned facilities will have an effective lifespan far longer than the point when experts agree the world must shed all fossil fuels, meaning that these will be stranded assets and wasted economic investments. Instead of doubling down on these facilities, it would make more sense to invest in clean, renewable energy.
That means frackers have to act fast and in a big way to cement their investment — they want to make sure they have their claws in us for as long as they can, and passing legislation to ban fracking becomes even more difficult when politicians and systems have signed off on new facilities and infrastructure that required billions of dollars in investment.
It’s simple: frackers know that the people want out of this deadly power racket. So they’re hurrying to lock us in.
700 reasons to ban fracking now
At a time when we need to pivot away from fossil fuels, over 700 new facilities have been built, proposed, or are under development to capitalize off of an oversupply of cheap fracked gas. This shocking buildout is simultaneously fueling the construction of dangerous pipelines that connect shale fields to facilities.
This buildout will lead to more plastics, liquefied natural gas exports, and gas-fired electricity that will increase air pollution, greenhouse gasses, and plastic waste.
And government policies are propping up polluting partnerships by giving these industries new tax breaks and subsidies and lax permitting, while supporting continued fracked gas exploration and overproduction.
The public health threats that follow close behind
Power plants and facilities that convert natural gas into petrochemicals emit massive amounts of air and climate pollutants. Natural gas-fired power plants are major emitters of nitrogen oxides and contribute to ground-level ozone and smog. Likewise, petrochemical facilities release numerous pollutants and flaring leads to ozone formation.
Prolonged contact with ground-level ozone from these facilities is linked to asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and studies have shown exposure to petrochemical facility pollutants is associated with heightened cancer risks, acute irritative symptoms and respiratory illnesses, especially for children.
Industrial pollution, including emissions from chemical and plastics facilities as well as power plants, impacts the health of nearby communities that often lack resources to fight back. Often, these plants are disproportionately sited in communities of color and low-income areas, an issue of deep environmental injustice.
We must escape this deadly plan
It is long past time to transition to a clean energy future, but the deep-pocketed fossil fuel, petrochemical and plastics industries are trying to derail this necessary transformation. Luckily, there is still time to change the outcome and thwart these plans. It’s going to require a massive movement among people like you and everyone you know, and organizations like Food & Water Watch.
Will you take action right now by signing on to ban fracking?