Fracking is a slang term for hydraulic fracturing, a procedure of creating fractures in rocks and rock formations by injecting fluid into cracks to force them further open. The larger fissures allow more oil and gas to flow out of the formation and into the wellbore, from where it can be extracted. Fracking has resulted in many oil and gas wells attaining a state of economic viability, due to the level of extraction that can be reached.
Fracking has been around since the end of World War II, but it was only in the last decade or so that the economic incentives helped to make it more common practice. The result has been an increase in oil production — and an increase in controversy.
Gasland, a 2010 documentary, and Promised Land, a 2012 feature film starring Matt Damon, helped to turn public opinion against the process. The information in those films has been effectively rebutted, but the damage has already been done. According to a 2013 University of Texas poll, 41 percent of Americans oppose fracking.
“I have found many Christian essays criticizing the oil and gas industry,” says Chris Horst at Christianity Today, “but few highlight the positive ways in which the American oil and gas industry contributes to our society.” Horst provides Christians a valuable perspective by providing several reasons we should consider supporting fracking. One of the most important reasons, Horst notes, is that it helps alleviate poverty both in the U.S. and around the world:
Economic booms are not without consequences, of course, but North Dakota’s state government is currently running a $1.6 billion surplus, which allows it to provide many of the services that revenue-strapped states are cutting.
The benefits of fracking extend to Americans across the country. A recent study estimated that fracking improved household incomes last year by more than $1,200. Nationally, three of the top seven taxpayers are oil and gas companies.
The American energy revolution is very good news for vulnerable people, many of whom are living perilously close to financial collapse. Christians should lament economic conditions that perpetuate poverty, and we should celebrate the inverse.
Fracking—and the work of oil and gas workers more broadly—has had positive global impacts as well. Electricity and other first-world normalcies—computers, cell phones, X-ray machines, bulldozers—have become more affordable. As a result, medical manufacturing facilities have been built in Vietnam, and money transfer kiosks have popped up in every corner of the world. Doctors can conduct surgeries after dark. Children can read into the night. Pastors in remote areas can access top-shelf theological training. Billions of people in Africa and Asia are now connected to the global economic grid, lifting hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty.