With Florida lawmakers back in their home districts, Washington, D.C.-based “ban fracking” activist group Food & Water Watch (FWW) is using the next six months to peddle anti-fossil fuel rhetoric before the state legislature reconvenes in January.
As a part of its nationwide campaign, FWW has targeted Florida, where there is no fracking at the moment, to spread misinformation about potential impacts on groundwater, air quality, public health and tourism. In other words, the organization is using the same tactics it has used in its failed efforts to ban all oil and gas development, its ultimate goal, in states like Colorado and California.
Fortunately for the residents of oil and gas-producing regions across the country, including Florida, these claims don’t hold up against science.
No fewer than 28 studies by government, academic and regulatory authorities have determined that fracking is not a major threat to drinking water. Most notable of these studies is the EPA’s landmark five-year report, which found no evidence of widespread water contamination of drinking water from fracking.
And when it comes to air quality and public health, an annual collaborative report by Ceres, a non-profit research institute, and the Natural Resources Defense Council— both well-known anti-fracking groups — released in June was again forced to acknowledge shale gas’ huge role in reducing U.S. air pollution and carbon emissions.
The report, which analyzed sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx), mercury and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the nation’s 100 biggest power producers, which are responsible for 85 percent of the country’s electricity and 86 percent of the industry’s reported emissions, found that emissions have “decreased dramatically” thanks in large part to natural gas:
“Increased natural gas generation and a decrease in coal generation, driven in large part by low natural gas prices, have contributed to the reduction in emissions. Over the last decade and a half, natural gas generation has more than doubled, while coal generation decreased by nearly 40 percent.”
Specifically, the report found:
- CO2 emissions from these power companies are down 20 percent since 2005.
- SO2 emissions have declined 87 percent since 1990.
- NOX emissions are down 79 percent since 1990.
- Mercury emissions are down 69 percent since 2000.
As EID highlighted in its recent “Compendium of Studies Demonstrating the Safety and Health Benefits of Fracking,” these SO2, NOx and mercury emission reductions are important considering power plants have traditionally been the top sources of these criteria pollutants.
In addition, environmental research group Resources for the Future (RFF) — certainly no shill for oil and gas — recently released a report that reveals why anti-fracking activists are focusing on quantity rather than quality when it comes to health studies related to fracking. RFF reviewed 32 of the more prominent shale-focused studies on birth outcomes, cancer, asthma and other health effects, including migraines and hospitalization.
What did they find? As EID has pointed out many times before, a vast majority of studies released linking fracking to adverse health outcomes fail to prove causation, and the RFF report also notes this prevalent, glaring flaw:
“Overall, we find that the literature does not provide strong evidence regarding specific health impacts and is largely unable to establish mechanisms for any potential health effects.”
“Due to the nature of the data and research methodologies, the studies are unable to assess the mechanisms of any health impacts (i.e., whether a certain impact is caused by air pollution, stress, water pollution, or another burden). Even where good evidence is offered for a link between unconventional oil and gas development and health, the causal factor(s) driving this association are unclear.”
In fact, the recent rise in U.S. oil production has been linked to a record-breaking number of tourists visiting Florida. Just a week before the Independence Day holiday, the Orlando Sentinel reported on Florida tourism reaping the windfall from increased U.S. oil and natural gas production:
“Increased U.S. oil production pushed gas prices down further during the last week, with the Metro Orlando average sliding to $2.08 on Thursday, according to travel club AAA. Consumers are reaping the windfall as the summer driving season kicks into high gear — which means Metro Orlando tourism businesses might benefit as well this holiday weekend. Prices for a gallon of unleaded regular have dropped to an average of $2.17 in Florida, down 7 cents in a week. Metro Orlando’s average is down 9 cents during the last week and 29 cents since June 3.”
Low gasoline prices are encouraging domestic travel to Florida, and even America’s top oil and gas producing states have seen simultaneous growth of the tourism and oil and gas industries:
Perhaps even more telling, across the Gulf Coast, which includes Florida, the tourism and petroleum industries are thriving:
The reality is that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is already helping visitors and residents alike in Florida beat the heat during these hot summer days. After all, it takes a lot of energy to keep things cool and keep all of Florida’s attractions running smoothly.
In fact, Florida is the fifth largest energy consumer in the U.S., with a majority of this energy being provided by fossil fuels, including natural gas, oil or other petroleum sources. Although oil has been produced in Florida for many decades, there is currently not enough production to supply Florida’s large energy needs, so the Sunshine State relies on pipelines to important natural gas from U.S. shale plays where fracking is common practice.
FWW is recycling the same old “ban fracking” campaign in Florida after a string of failures in other states where fracking takes place. Science has shown that in states where fracking is used as a well completion method, the air is cleaner, groundwater is safe, tourism is booming and there aren’t the negative public health impacts activists claim.
Florida’s growing population and increased tourist visits make it vital the state has access to uninterrupted natural resources for energy consumption. Fortunately for Florida and the rest of the U.S., in addition to the safe development of the Sunshine State’s own petroleum resources within its borders, the use of fracking has created an increase in responsible energy development throughout the country, boosting energy security from coast to coast.