In a rare instance of bipartisan common sense, Illinois
recently enacted sweeping legislation regulating horizontal hydraulic
fracturing. The bill was carefully crafted with input from those in the oil
industry, as well as some environmental groups.
The legislation, signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, supports the
process — known commonly as fracking — while providing some common-sense
guidelines that should assuage the concern of those way of the practice.
The bill’s signing came shortly after I visited what may be
the state’s first fracking site, in Wayne County. An Oklahoma company put in an
exploratory well on a farm there after purchasing mineral rights from the land’s
Tens of millions of dollars have been spent by companies to
landowners in the southern portion of the state for rights to the oil and gas
At the least, it could put extra money in the pockets of
farmers and others in a region whose soil doesn’t regularly produce 200-bushel
corn. At most, successful drilling could usher in a new age of prosperity in
southern Illinois, a rural area whose counties are routinely socked with high
unemployment and poverty levels.
The political agreement is a true victory over the forces in
our midst resisting progress. The message shared by these groups has morphed
from support of environmental stewardship to a rejection of virtually anything
involving modern technology.
Agriculture has especially been touched — and hampered — by
these forces. Companies producing genetically modified seeds, effective chemical
treatments and modern equipment have been opposed at nearly every turn by those
who seem to prefer the horse-and-single-bottom-plow method of farming.
In the end, we must be conscious of the century in which we
dwell. This is 2013, not 1813, 1913 or even 1993. Progress isn’t a bad word.
One has to wonder that if those opposing modern industry
also would have opposed innovations that modernized our world more than a
century ago. Would they have rejected the automobile, telephone or electricity?
After all, these things all carry risks. People die in car
crashes, people accidentally get electrocuted and so on.
Fracking opponents such as the group with the cutesy acronym
SAFE — Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment — pushed for a
moratorium of at least a year on the process in order to wait for the results of
But it’s hard to believe that such groups would have ever
supported an end to such a moratorium, regardless of the outcome of any
Among other things, the legislation passed in Illinois
provides a clear legal recourse in case companies don’t follow proper procedures
in drilling and cause some damage. And with progress, accidents do happen — it’s
The BP offshore oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico
definitely created some misery and hurt the regional economy. The same can be
said for the Exxon Valdez tanker oil spill in Alaska, the Three Mile Island
nuclear power plant leak and other accidents. But we have recovered from
As with anything, one must weigh the benefits against the
risks of any endeavor. After all, millions of Americans have been killed in
automobile crashes since the first Model T rolled off the assembly line.
But it certainly would be silly to ban cars because they’re
not 100-percent safe or to outlaw drugs controlling diabetes because there are
The same thinking should hold for advances in energy and
agriculture — which, by the way, go hand in hand in today’s world.