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Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, and many of us will spend time with our families eating too much food and strategically waiting for couch spots to open up so we can sneak in a quick catnap when our unsuspecting relatives abandon their posts for another slice of pie. It’s a time when we are thankful for the friends, family, and food. We should also be thankful for fracking. Although many people may not know it, fracking has lowered the cost of energy and other goods and services, makes America more energy-independent, and it is done in an environmentally responsible way.
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking,” has greatly increased the amount of oil produced in the United States. As a result, oil prices have fallen from more than $105 per barrel in the summer of 2014 to about $45 per barrel today, leading to savings at the pump we can all be thankful for.
The American Auto Association (AAA) reports gas prices are about one dollar lower today than at this time in 2014, saving consumers between $10 and $35 dollars per fill-up, and an AAA spokesperson says in 2015 drivers will find the cheapest gas prices at Thanksgiving and Christmas in seven years.
The average American family may save more than $700 at the pump in 2015 compared to 2014 because of lower gas prices. Although this may seem like pocket change for some people, lower energy prices help lower-income households and young people the most because these groups spend a higher percentage of their income on fuel. As someone who grew up in a home where money was always tight, I appreciate and am thankful for low gas prices, because I understand how important every dollar saved can be for many U.S. families.
Fracking also saves time. Compared to higher-income earners, young people and lower-income people are more likely to earn the minimum wage. The national minimum wage is $7.50 per hour, meaning the $700 saved on gasoline in 2015 is equivalent to a minimum-wage earner working an additional 93 hours. For college students trying to pay for school or parents who want to spend a few more hours at home, the savings from gas prices allow people to pay off their student loans faster or simply spend more time with their kids.
Thanks to fracking, these savings are more likely to stick around for the next few years. Before fracking, the United States was vulnerable to high oil prices because the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil cartel was able to keep global oil supplies low, artificially keeping the prices high. In fact, many people may remember when we thought $4 per gallon gasoline was here to stay. Fracking has given the United States a trump card, allowing us to produce large amounts of our own oil when OPEC wants to raise prices and gouge American consumers.
Of course, most of us don’t think saving money is worth it if comes at the expense of the environment. Fortunately, fracking is a safe and effective way to produce energy without causing significant harm to the environment or to people. For instance, in a recent study the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found no evidence fracking has had a widespread, systemic impact on groundwater supplies. Accidents have happened, but they are rare and containable.
Every single thing humans do on this planet has an environmental impact. This is the rule, and there are no exceptions. Even so-called “green” energy has large impacts on the landscape because it requires mining metals required to make wind turbines and solar panels and causes the death of birds and other wildlife. There is no such thing as consequence-free energy.
Fracking does impose some risks, but they are manageable, and the benefits of having affordable energy, and lots of it, far outweigh the potential negative impacts of fracking. That is something to be thankful for.