Whether hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a force for good or evil is one of America’s most divisive issues. Backers emphasize the economic value and future promise of energy independence; critics are concerned about environmental impact, and the role cheap oil and gas may play in slowing renewable energy progress.
But Michael Porter, Harvard economist and renowned authority on strategy and competitiveness, contends that fracking’s environmental record can be improved, and natural gas can be used as a bridge to an alternative energy future. And most importantly, as he explains in a recent Wall Street Journal article, the fracking boom offers “perhaps the single largest opportunity to improve the trajectory of the U.S. economy.”
That’s the message of Porter’s new report, a collaborative research initiative with Harvard Business School and Boston Consulting Group: inexpensive natural gas, along with oil, can give a much-needed boost to the U.S. economy. But weakening public support for fracking, rooted in misinformation and politically charged misunderstanding about the country’s energy strategy, threatens this potential advantage. If we keep arguing about its value, the opportunity will wither away.
“It’s a game changer,” Porter argues in an NPR interview that was the program’s most-viewed broadcast last week. The industry is adding jobs, and helping businesses and individuals save money – and it’s the only driver of U.S. growth that we have right now.
In the June report, “America’s Unconventional Energy Opportunity: A Win-Win Plan for the Economy, the Environment, and a Lower-Carbon, Cleaner-Energy Future,” Porter and his colleagues outline 11 action steps; a framework for what they believe is a practical, achievable strategic agenda.
To move these steps to action, however, “we need to change the discussion, move beyond ideology, and break the gridlock. Industry, NGOs, governments and academics must transcend their traditional positions… and work toward a good overall outcome for America.”
“The U.S. needs to achieve a ‘rational middle’ ground to capitalize on this historic opportunity,” stresses Porter. “The stakes are too high to fail.”
Read the full report here: http://www.hbs.edu/competitiveness/Documents/america-unconventional-energy-opportunity.pdf. You might also be interested in Porter’s video interview with Bloomberg Business, “U.S. Fracking Debate: Environment vs. Economics.”