Fracking in Texas: What do students think?


University of Texas students were surprised to learn that about half of their classmates had no idea what hydraulic fracturing (fracking) was or whether the economic benefits it is bringing to their home state are a good thing.  Still, nearly 61% of those who did offer an opinion said they “support fracking as a key contributor to the U.S. energy supply.”

Just last month, economists from the University of Texas – San Antonio announced that their 2013 prediction that the total impact to South Texas from fracking in the Eagle Ford Shale had already reached $87 billion in 2013 – numbers well about their prediction from just a year ago of an $89 billion economic impact by 2022.  Meanwhile, the Barnett Shale in north Texas still contributes $11.8 billion to the north Texas economy, according to the Perryman Group, and fracking in the Permian Basin in Texas is expected to push 2014 Permian oil production to over 1.3 million barrels of oil a day (BOPD), up from just 800,000 BOPD in 2007.  [Note that Eagle Ford and the Permian Basin both are producing more oil than the Bakken Shale in North Dakota right now.]

A brand-new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, since December 2007, when the Great Recession started, Texas civilian employment has increased by 12% — up 1,320,255 jobs – while U.S. employment MINUS Texas is down by 0.73%, reflecting a loss of 993,255 civilian sector jobs.  No wonder that President Obama, in his 2012 State of the Union address, promised that his administration would “take every possible action” to promote safe fracking technologies that he said at the time could create more than Texasjobs600,000 new U.S. jobs.

Despite the obvious economic impacts in high-frack states like Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Texas, there is a tsunami of opposition to the technology that has brought U.S. gasoline prices to their lowest point in years and enabled the U.S. to become the world’s leading producer of oil and gas – weakening OPEC”s ability to control prices and Russia’s ability to bully Europeans.

Even in Texas, the Denton city council will soon decide whether to make permanent a temporary ban on fracking in that community – an action that could cost the small north Texas city $251.4 million in economic activity and over 2,000 jobs during the next decade.

At CFACT’s request, three University of Texas students – Madison Albrecht (right), Robert Guerra (top left), and Andrew Jackson (top right) – took a poll to find out what their fellow students thought about fracking.madison  The results were quite surprising.  Jackson told CFACT, “I thought that the students at UT would know a little bit more about fracking – given its huge economic impact for Texas,” but over half of the students he polled could or would not give a simple yes or no answer.

Robert interiewing a studentGuerra agreed – half of those he polled threw up their hands when asked about support for fracking.  Guerra noted that fracking “is a hot button issue in Texas and it is good for students to be civically involved,” especially give the huge positive impact of fracking on the Texas economy.  Both agreed that students groups could do more to educate their peers about energy issues in the nation’s leading energy state.

These poll results, it turns out, are similar to those from a University of Texas energy poll taken in March 2013, in which 62% of respondents expressed support for natural gas development, but just over half of consumers were just not familiar with “fracking.”  Of those who were familiar, 45% were in favor, 41% were opposed.  A plurality even favored fracking on public lands, and a majority wanted some regulation to protect water supplies and the environment.

While these numbers may be disappointing, consider a 1996 poll of U.S. teens taken by the National Energy Education Development Project, which showed that 57% of students polled did not know that gasoline comes from oil.

For the record, Texas – which produces and consumes more electricity than any other state — leads the nation in oil and gas production but also has more developed wind power capacity than any other state; and Texas also generates significant quantities of energy from solar, geothermal, hydropower, biomass, and nuclear.