White House Urges Gas Industry to Back Fracking Regulation

A gas drill sits upon the Marcellus shale formation in Pennsylvania. (image: newspaper guy via flickr.com)

At the moment, hydraulic fracturing is a tricky proposition. On one hand, the drilling technique could unlock huge reserves of natural gas trapped in rock formations around the country. And on the other, some observers are worried that fracking could poison groundwater and — through increased methane release — contribute to global warming.

In recent weeks, Pres. Obama has gingerly managed this debate. In last month’s energy address, he acknowledged the great potential in tapping the gas — “perhaps a century’s worth” — in the rock under our feet. And in the same breath, added that it must be done safely, “without polluting our water supply.”

Today, the White House underlined the need for environmentally sensitive fracking, urging the natural gas industry to back common sense regulation to win public approval, according to Reuters. Speaking at an energy conference, one economic adviser, Gene Sperling, said:

Common sense regulation that builds the public trust that fracking does not put at risk clean or safe drinking water is not the obstacle to natural gas extraction … it is the pathway to doing so.

That may be a hard sell. The energy sector has been resistant to regulation, saying that state oversight is enough and further limits could hurt production, Reuters adds.

Fracking has taken a few licks in the media. Both the New York Times and an Oscar-nominated documentary titled “Gasland” have painted an unflattering portrait of the drilling technique. Though natural gas’ reputation enjoyed a bit of a turnaround — as a fuel and on the commodities market — in the wake of the nuclear disasters in Japan.