Guest / Limited Access /
Fracking Isn't a Four-Letter Word
Image: Rich LaSalle / Getty Images

"There are many times when I don't share about my husband's work," said Christine Bess.

Christine did not marry a secret agent or a drug dealer. She married an oilman.

"It's not because I'm ashamed of it," she continued, "but because of the reactions I receive, including from many Christians."

Her husband, Brian, has worked in the oil and gas industry for over three decades. He is a partner at Enduring Resources, a company headquartered in Denver that develops oil and gas resources in Texas and Utah through horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing—commonly called fracking.

Fracking is the process of drilling holes thousands of feet vertically and then drilling horizontally at that depth. Drillers then send a fluid mixture of water, sand, and chemicals through a steel-cased pipe into the underground rock formations, unlocking and releasing oil and natural gas trapped in the rock. Imagine a high-powered pressure washer and sandblaster stuck into a steel pipe in the ground.

Fracking has been around since the 1940s, but only in recent years has it gained cultural notoriety, and, in particular, become the subject of heated debate.

In 2010, the documentary Gasland quickly earned activist acclaim for introducing Americans to the drilling practice. And in 2012, Promised Land, starring Matt Damon, premiered in theaters with a similar refrain: frackers are earth-plundering villains.

Critics rebutted both films. Gasland prompted a counter-documentary, and many from the communities portrayed in Promised Land disapproved of the film, claiming they were deceived by the filmmakers' intentions.

Furthermore, it was discovered that oil barons from the Persian Gulf had funded the anti-fracking film. The funders are competitors of the American petroleum industry, and their investment discredits the objectivity of the film.

But the damage was done. The verdict was in. These films have only reinforced the negative stereotypes about fracking, casting families like the Besses into disrepute. And tragedies like the 2010 BP oil spill don't help. According to a 2013 University of Texas poll, 41 percent of Americans oppose fracking. Part of this is a problem of language: fracking sounds like a four-letter expletive.

To be sure, anti-fracking filmmakers have asked good questions. They've forced viewers to think, when plugging in their laptops and cranking up their heat, "Just how are we powering our homes, schools, and hospitals?"

Christians believe God created a good world and entrusted it to our care. In The Radical Disciple, John Stott said, "God intends our work to be an expression of our worship, and our care of the creation to reflect our love for the Creator." We care for our world because we love its Creator. There are environmental implications whenever we drill deep holes in the ground, and we should continue to research the effects of fracking.

Experts debate whether fracking can lead to earthquakes, though scientists at the United States Geological Survey said there is no connection. Some suggest fracking contaminates drinking water, though critics acknowledge their fears are due to suspicions, not hard evidence. The Department of Energy study released recently found no evidence that fracking contaminates groundwater. We need to weigh these potential risks against fracking's alternatives. Despite the risks, I believe the case for fracking is stronger than the case against it. As Jeffrey Greenberg, geology professor at Wheaton College, said, "Do it and do it carefully if all reasonable and pertinent variables are considered honestly. Fracking isn't perfectly safe, like living itself. It is still a good option under the right circumstances."

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Recommended
Subscriber Access Only Be Fruitful and Multiply?
Observers weigh in on whether Christians have a special responsibility to have children.
TrendingMark Driscoll Resigns from Mars Hill
Mark Driscoll Resigns from Mars Hill
"I do not want to be the source of anything that might detract from our church’s mission."
Editor's PickBless This Tackle? Not a Prayer
Bless This Tackle? Not a Prayer
Christians’ misguided fight for football devotions isn’t working.
Comments
View this article in Reader Mode
Christianity Today
Fracking Isn't a Four-Letter Word