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Fracking is not the answer for U.S. economy

Apparently, columnist Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. doesn't understand the difference between manufacturing and mining or mineral extraction ("New day for U.S. manufacturing," May 5). While manufacturing is sustainable as long as there is a demand for the product, mineral extraction is always boom and bust. Think of the once thriving silver mining towns of Nevada, now ghost towns.

Mr. Ehrlich's Pollyanna vision of hydraulic fracturing completely ignores the gritty and nightmarish underbelly of this extreme form of natural resource extraction with its requirement of millions of gallons of fresh water per well and the resultant millions of gallons of toxic wastewater after-product that must be stored or dumped somewhere. Likewise, he ignores the polluting of fresh water aquifers and the soaring rates of cancer and "mysterious" illnesses that plague the populations unlucky enough to live close to fracking sites. There is also truck traffic and the uncontrolled air pollution and leakage of climate-warming greenhouse gases emitted from each drilling site. Is it a coincidence that the five industries Mr. Ehrlich sites as thriving in the U.S. due to cheap energy from fracking all support the hydraulic fracturing enterprise or are petro-chemical in nature?

We all want a robust economy, and the oil and gas resources in the vast shale deposits are a resource that begs to be tapped — safely. When the fracking boom ends (granted, it may be a century or two from now) it will have left a depleted and despoiled landscape behind and have created billions of tons of greenhouse gases. Mr. Ehrlich applauds the weak state environmental regulations that allow this rampage to accelerate. Shouldn't we be promoting a full-scale effort to instead generate sustainable and clean energy resources through more efficient appliances, homes and manufacturing, green construction, as well as solar, wind, geothermal and tide energy production?

Mr. Ehrlich is correct that our intellectual and entrepreneurial talents are second to none. Let's apply these skills full-throttle to sustainable green technologies that won't leave a trail of despoiled water and earth behind and that will last forever, not just until the last liter of oil and gas have been extracted and burned.

David Wagenheim, Towson

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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