I have found many Christian essays criticizing the oil and gas industry, but few highlight the positive ways in which the American oil and gas industry contributes to our society. While we should not support fracking blindly, here are several reasons Christians should consider supporting it.
1. It's Cleaner and Cheaper than Current Alternatives
Natural gas, the predominant fuel unlocked by fracking, is a cleaner fuel source than oil and coal, the two primary fuels it has displaced. Natural gas produces 50 percent less carbon dioxide than coal when burned. Shifting from coal to natural gas has produced the lowest carbon dioxide emissions levels since 1992. Our emissions are decreasing even as our energy use has increased. And, according to recent research from the University of Texas, shifting power plants from coal to natural gas results in the use of 25 to 50 times less water.
In defending his support of using natural gas, President Obama said, "Sometimes there are disputes about natural gas, but let me say this: We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions."
Sure, alternative energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal exist—and we should continue to invest in developing them—but those produce only one percent of the world's total energy. Conversely, 81 percent of the world's energy is derived from petroleum products. And, because of weather variables, wind and solar are not capable right now of being primary fuel sources. Today, there are no economically or functionally viable energy sources capable of replacing oil, coal, or natural gas. Fracking produces abundant quantities of natural gas, the cleanest viable energy source God has given us.
2. It Alleviates Poverty—Here and Abroad
We are amidst an American petroleum revolution, one described as the "energy equivalent of the Berlin Wall coming down." Technological innovations have opened new opportunities for American entrepreneurs like Brian Bess, and the United States could surpass Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world's top oil producer by 2017. Frackers have turned the global energy markets upside down.
Today, Brian is an executive, but his position in the industry wasn't always glamorous. He lost his job when the industry wallowed in the early 1980s, shortly after his and Christine's daughter was born. With no engineering jobs available, and a wife and baby to support, Brian took a job working on the oilfields, servicing and cleaning drilling rigs.
The fracking industry has provided employment for Brian and millions of others—both white collar and blue collar—in this country. The natural gas surge has created hundreds of thousands of jobs within the last decade. And economists project that the natural gas industry will create over a million more jobs by 2025. For example, fracking has created abundant job opportunities in North Dakota, where unemployment is under four percent (compared to 7.6 percent nationwide). In Williston, North Dakota, McDonald's is offering starting wages of $15 an hour because competition for workers is so high.