Ed Dolan has an interesting post on Fracking and The Environment: an economic perspective (May 4, 2012)(hat tip--Mark Thoma's Economist's View).
He suggests that the controversy over fracking would be better handled by some serious development of national energy policy. My take on what he says is that at least the following is needed:
1. an in-depth assessment of the carbon emissons costs of each type of fuel (not just the cost of burning that fuel, but the cost of finding, extracting, processing and transporting it as well);
2. an in-depth assessment of the locality costs of each type of fuel (the local environmental effects of fuel extraction and usage, including harm to places of natural beauty, harm to ecologically unique or sensitive areas (thinking here about National Wildlife Refuge), harm to drinking water (thinking here about potential of pollution of underground aquifers and wells from fracking done poorly), harm from toxic chemical dispersion (fracking, again), flaming faucets, etc.);
3, some kind of pricing mechanism to make the types of fuel that do the most harm on either the first or the second level above also the most costly and therefore economically disfavored (a fuel tax that varied according to the score on each of the two category levels would make sense;
4. something not mentioned by Dolan but necessary if we are ever to develop a decent national energy policy--removal of the current subsidies for natural resource extraction and replacement with incentive subsidies for those forms that are scored as least harmful to the environment.
Think this dysfunctional Congress is anywhere near being able to do such a policy? I doubt it. So readers who care should consider how to elect a Congress that will enact policy based on the public good, rather than considering primarily how to get themselves reelected by getting dollars from corporate lobbyists.