Managing the Risks of Hydraulic Fracturing

The literature on the risks of hydraulic fracturing, while voluminous, is not clear. The most authoritative studies by governmental academies and agencies suggest that more information needs to be gathered, but at present the risks are judged to be modest and manageable with existing technologies. The call for bans and moratoria are passionate, and no doubt heartfelt by those who fear the technology and/or oppose the product of that technology (hydrocarbons), but policymakers should ignore the siren song of the simplistic solution. Bans and moratoria may make it seem like one is taking action against risk, but they simply defer those risks to a later date, if and when activity resumes, which—given the vast economic potential of shale gas and oil—it most likely will.

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