Fracking Means Big Bucks, But Can The Money Be Spent On The Environment?

Sep 3, 2014

Fracking operations often have to burn off some of the gas they unearth. Wally Tyner says it's one of a number of challenges the industry is trying to address.
Credit Tim Evanson / https://www.flickr.com/photos/23165290

Hydraulic fracturing -- fracking, for short -- has been an economic boon to such states as North Dakota. It's produced never-before-seen wealth in the form of the gas and oil released from rocks deep underground.

A new report from Purdue agricultural economists Wally Tyner and Farzad Taheripour estimates the industry could create as much as $300 billion in wealth for Americans every year through at least 2035.

So what will the people who make that money do with it? In the Purdue researchers' report, they suggest giving half of it back to the environment -- the same environment some fracking detractors say is grievously harmed by the practice.

Tyner says the numbers indicate that if even half the wealth is reinvested in clean energy technologies -- ones that lower carbon emissions, for instance -- the country could see a 25-percent pollution reduction in the next 20 years.

But he acknowledges the regulatory structure and the politics of the issue make it more difficult to come to that solution or convince stakeholders it's in their best interest.