Climate change was a popular topic at last week’s Vice Presidential debate. And in particular: fracking. The moderator pushed Sen. Kamala Harris on her and Joe Biden’s stance on the issue, as Biden’s position has been both confusing and unclear. Because fracking has created thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state for the 2020 election, Biden has been careful to avoid saying that he will ban fracking outright. In fact, he has explicitly opposed banning fracking. However, he’s also stated that he will oppose new fracking projects and, during a presidential debate, said he wants to ban fracking as soon as possible. 

But is fracking really so bad that any of it should be banned?

Fracking is bad, actually.
– Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

False. Completely make believe.

Climate activists such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attack fracking and natural gas because it is not carbon-neutral or a renewable energy source. But the renewable energy sources that they support are not reliable enough to provide large amounts of energy to the American people. Innovation has been the best approach to energy challenges, as seen by the development of fracking, and it will continue to be the best path into the future as we work to combat climate change. 

So what is fracking? Fracking is the process of drilling into the earth and injecting high-pressure liquid into subterranean rock in order to release the gas inside. This process made natural gas much less expensive and encouraged a move away from coal-powered energy, thus leading to dramatic improvements in air quality throughout the country. 

In the 1960s, entrepreneurs in Texas developed hydraulic fracturing, paving the way for our natural gas boom of the early 2000s. Since the boom, fracking has led to the creation of millions of jobs across the country, particularly in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Colorado. 

As natural gas has overcome coal to become the largest source of electricity in the United States, it has played a vital role in reducing U.S. emissions in the last two decades. The large, previously-untapped reserves of natural gas lowered prices while providing the U.S. with a reliable source of energy. Natural gas is the cleanest burning of all hydrocarbon fuel sources and today is responsible for 38.4 percent of U.S. electricity generation.

In fact, natural gas has proven to be a crucial piece in America’s carbon reduction leadership. The reliability of natural gas has made it an important complement to the more unreliable renewable energy sources. Until the intermittent nature of many renewable sources is overcome, natural gas will continue to bridge the gap and enable states and countries to reasonably incorporate some renewable energy into their power grids. 

Fracking plays an important role in our economy and in providing reliable, clean energy to the American people. It is not bad, but rather, a crucial step toward a clean energy future. 

To learn more about different sources of energy and American innovation, read IWF’s policy focus: Innovating Our Way to a Cleaner Environment.