Americans have been drilling wells for oil and gas for more than a century and a half. Hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - has been in use to augment well production for decades.
Yet it has been only during the past few years that a gusher of propaganda about fracking has surfaced. Incredibly, some public officials, such as those in New York state, have allowed it to dictate policy.
What about the facts on fracking and other oil and gas industry practices? A variety of studies indicate there is little or no danger of groundwater being contaminated by chemicals used in fracking, as the industry points out.
Nevertheless, the Environmental Protection Agency has launched a comprehensive study of fracking. Last week, EPA official George Paulson said a progress report on the study should be released by the end of this year. A final report is due in 2014, he added.
Good. The EPA's progress report should give scientists, the gas and oil industry, and those worried about fracking opportunities to check the agency's methodology. EPA officials, sometimes accused of bowing to the demands of radical environmentalists rather than basing policy on science, should welcome the oversight.
There indeed are some valid concerns about fracking, primarily involving well casings used to keep chemicals out of groundwater. But rejecting the practice altogether, in view of what appears to be an excellent environmental record, makes no sense. The EPA study should provide solid, science-based guidance that will safeguard the environment while allowing Americans to get at the gigantic supplies of natural gas underneath our feet.