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Hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” has made the United States the world’s leading producer of natural gas and oil. The country is producing record amounts of natural gas and crude oil production has increased by 80 percent since 2008. This increasing production has helped the United States drill its way to lower energy prices, which has resulted in large savings for every American, especially those who need it most.
According to the Energy Information Administration, the average U.S. household will save about $675 on gasoline in 2015 compared to 2014 prices because of lower oil prices. These savings are $125 more than the government estimated earlier this year. People aren’t just saving money at the pump; low natural gas prices have further increased the amount of extra money in people’s pockets.
A study by the Brookings Institution, a left-of-center public policy think tank, found lower natural gas prices have saved families anywhere from $181 to $432 per person depending on the geographic area they lived in. Fracking lends a helping hand for people skirting the poverty line.
Imagine a single mother living with two children in Detroit. She will save $777 on natural gas alone, and incorporating her savings at the pump, she could save up to $1,452 this year. In Mississippi, the state with the highest poverty rate, a family of four would save $1,631 through lower gasoline and natural gas prices.
If time is money, saving money can be thought of as buying time. With that in mind, perhaps the greatest benefit low energy prices bring people is the opportunity to spend less time working and more time with their families while still being able to afford keeping the lights on.
Consider the hypothetical family from Mississippi. If the two parents earned the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, their savings on energy would be the equivalent of 225 hours of work per year. If one parent works fewer hours as a result, he or she will have approximately four additional hours each week to spend at home with his or her kids, which could have significant benefits for their education and overall health.
Studies have found reading to kids is one of the most important ways to improve their educational performance. According to the organization Reading Is Fundamental, a smaller percentage of children in poverty were read to or told stories by a family member than children who were at or above the poverty level. Parents who earn the least often must work multiple jobs and don’t have time to read to their kids at night. Working fewer hours might give them enough time to read to their kids, giving those children a chance for a brighter future.
Additionally, childhood obesity rates are highest among low-income families. A University of California–Davis study found people who work more are more likely to go to both fast-food and full-service restaurants. That makes sense because people who work more have less time to spend preparing their own food and eating out makes it harder to eat healthy.
I’m not suggesting fracking is going to magically cause parents to read to their kids or help fight childhood obesity, but the affordable energy provided by hydraulic fracturing makes it easier for low-income families to provide for their kids and still have a few hours in the day to spend quality time with them.
Unfortunately, some people want to stop fracking because of bad science and misleading movies like Gasland. They may have good intentions and a sincere desire to protect the environment, but their efforts to stop fracking would harm those who can afford it least.