By Drew Johnson
At 8 percent, the California unemployment rate is one of the highest in the country.
The state legislature apparently likes it that way. California lawmakers are on their way to banning a technology that could create 200,000 jobs, inject millions of dollars into the state's economy, and create a clean, reliable source of energy.
A bill making its way through the Legislature would outlaw hydraulic fracturing -- or fracking -- at least temporarily. Now it appears that lawmakers in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are jumping on the anti-fracking bandwagon as well. These states have also come out with measures that would restrict the drilling technique.
The problem is, policies aiming to ban fracking aren't supported by facts. Fracking is a safe, proven drilling technique that has been around for years. Lawmakers must stop letting emotions and fear rule their decisions, and must start basing energy policy in reality.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a decades-old method of using a high-velocity mixture of water, sand and chemicals to blast through rock to release oil and gas deposits. This technique has safely and successfully tapped abundant natural resources from more than 1 million wells nationwide -- and over 1,500 in California alone.
But last month, the California Democratic Convention unanimously approved a platform urging the state to enact the ban. They argued that fracking causes birth defects, pollutes groundwater and even triggers earthquakes. These Democrats say policymakers need time to determine whether fracking can be allowed to resume in the future.
Such caution would be reasonable if the concerns about fracking were based in fact -- but there is already a mountain of research available that establishes the safety of fracking.
Some anti-fracking extremists like to argue that fracking causes birth defects. In reality, the one Colorado-focused study zealots cite when making that claim has been thoroughly discredited by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for its faulty science. In fact, the health department insisted on the disclaimer: "[This agency] specifically disclaims responsibility for any analyses, interpretations or conclusions."
Another unfounded claim leveled by fracking opponents is that the chemicals used in the process contaminate drinking water. President Obama's own administration admits that accusation is bogus. Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, Lisa Jackson told Congress that she knew of no "proven case where the fracking process" affected water. The EPA itself has even used hydraulic fracturing to help clean up hazardous Superfund sites.
Maybe the most outlandish claim is that fracking causes earthquakes. A U.S. Geological Survey scientist who investigated this claim unequivocally declared that there is "no evidence that fracking is related to the occurrence of earthquakes."
Environmentalists often contend that they argue on the side of science. But green activists trying to shut down fracking have traded settled science for a mountain of genuine malarkey.
And these attacks on the drilling technique are far from harmless. Fracking has been instrumental in revitalizing the energy sector. Banning it now would ravage the economy, lead to massive unemployment and threaten America's growing energy independence.
Last year, fracking supported 2.1 million jobs and contributed $284 billion to the U.S. economy. As a result, our country has achieved the highest levels of oil production in 25 years. The increase in domestic crude and natural gas production has made the U.S. more energy independent. In 2005, America imported 60 percent of its petroleum products. Thanks to fracking, that number is down to 28 percent this year.
Thoughtful debate about the benefits and drawbacks of fracking should be encouraged in California and across the United States. When that happens, the advantages of fracking become evident. All too often, however, discussions about fracking are met with spurious attempts to attack and even prohibit the practice based on bogus science and tawdry fear-mongering.
Unfounded fear must not stand in the way of the most promising and exciting energy revolution we've experienced in over a century. That's something lawmakers must remember when contemplating legislation that could suddenly inhibit this progress.
Drew Johnson is a senior fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit educational organization dedicated to a smaller, more responsible government.