Kashmeri: Fracking Ban

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(Host) International business specialist and commentator Sarwar Kashmeri is concerned that a law passed during Vermont’s recent legislative session could turn out to be a bad policy decision.

(Kashmeri) Vermont may have made a big mistake recently when it passed legislation to ban hydraulic-fracturing, or fracking, the revolutionary technology that is used to extract previously unreachable pools of oil and natural gas.

While there’s little evidence of any oil or natural gas in Vermont, the practical impact of the legislation will be to reinforce Vermont’s reputation as a business-unfriendly state. This is unfortunate given the competition for investment and jobs on which Vermont’s future prosperity depends.

Don’t get me wrong. There are a number of environmental and geological questions raised by fracking that that still need clarification – which is why New York, Pennsylvania, and other states where the technology is finding favor are proceeding with caution. And it’s why the Obama Administration has put into place tough regulations to control its deployment nationally. But banning fracking outright represents policy making by emotion not facts.

Let me ask you a question. Would you say that in the past 5 years, energy-related carbon emissions in the U.S. have increased? Decreased? Or remained the same?

If you said – increased, you’d be quite wrong. Emissions have actually decreased by some 450 million metric tons – a significant amount. In fact, the drop in American carbon-emissions was the largest among all countries surveyed by the International Energy Agency, the source of these statistics. The apparent reasons for this decrease are improvements in fuel efficiency and a major shift from coal to gas in the power sector. A shift driven by the reduction in price of natural gas due to fracking.

Or consider a new report from Harvard that dismissed the worry over "peak oil" and said the world is practically swimming in the stuff. Thanks to new drilling techniques, the report continues, once off-limits oil fields in the U.S. could yield millions of barrels of oil a day over the next decade, turning America into the world’s second-largest oil producer.

At the same time, the report also pushes for "A revolution in environmental and emission-curbing technologies," and " strong enforcement of existing rules.

To paraphrase the old Roman proverb – when it comes to fracking – the report seems to say – make haste, slowly.

I wish Montpelier had sent a message that reflected that sentiment. Banning hydraulic fracturing outright may turn out to have been bad legislation.

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