A year ago, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other Democratic lawmakers unveiled the Green New Deal, the aggressive environmental proposal that sought to utterly overhaul the American economy and get the nation off fossil fuels within a decade.
The proposal eventually amassed 98 House backers — all Democrats — but flamed out in a 57-0 vote in the Senate, where not a single Democratic senator supported it.
Undeterred, Ocasio-Cortez last week offered a bill that would ultimately ban hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — in America by 2025. Unlike a year ago, Rep. Darren Soto, a Kissimmee Democrat, has joined Ocasio-Cortez in this effort.
► LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Fracking should be banned (2019)
“We cannot deny the overwhelming scientific consensus any longer,” Soto said in a statement. “Fracking is a threat to our health, safety and environment.”
“If we want to transition from fossil fuel emissions as we work towards building a 100 percent clean economy, pulling back from fracking is a critical first step,” he added. “Failure to act will only make the crisis at hand even more detrimental for future generations of Americans.”
We can understand why fracking concerns many like Soto, for reasons both above and below ground. We have opposed efforts to implement fracking in Florida, even as we appreciate how it has benefited our nation.
► LETTER TO THE EDITOR: The facts support climate change
Yet a nationwide ban is the wrong way to go, as it is indisputable that fracking has been a net positive for America’s energy sector, its customers and for climate change. Thus, we encourage Congress to ignore this proposal.
As Drew Johnson of the right-leaning National Center for Public Policy Research recently noted in an opinion piece, fracking enabled America to become the globe’s leading natural gas producer in 2015. Just two years ago, natural gas production was up 60% over two decades ago, and, Johnson noted, “This newfound abundance of natural gas has helped our nation transition away from coal, which emits twice as much carbon dioxide.”
According to him, “U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have hit 30-year lows, even as global emissions have increased by 50% during the same period. And since 2005, natural gas has done more to reduce power sector dioxide emissions than all renewable energy sources combined.”
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Per an Associated Press report, the Paris-based International Energy Agency recently announced that global man-made greenhouse gas emissions last year remained at 2018 levels. The biggest drop in carbon dioxide emissions was recorded in the U.S., which was partly attributed to closing coal-fired power plants.
What happens when those plants shut down? The New York Times explained last June: “Since 2005, most power companies have lowered their carbon dioxide emissions significantly, in large part by shifting from coal to (natural) gas.”
A wholesale swap to wind and solar, with a correlating ban on fracking, would devastate America’s economy, particularly workers in the fossil fuel industry, and crush utility customers.
A fracking ban sounds great in theory, but the economic consequences of its reality make it too risky an option to let it escape the drawing board.
This guest editorial was originally published by the Lakeland Ledger, a sister newspaper within Gannett.