When someone promises you 47,000 fracking jobs, it just sounds obscene. We say that because politicians regularly dangle the vision of the super-terrific mutant carrot that could be, as opposed to the tiny vegetable you are likely to grow. We believe that is the case with fracking.
Hydraulic fracturing is coming to Illinois as a way to free oil and gas deposits that are part of the New Albany shale formation underlying much of Illinois. They don't know how much the state could yield, but it is likely a decent reserve based on the fact that we still have oil wells pumping away in our fields near Summerfield and off the highways in central Illinois.
In a state with an unemployment rate 1 percent higher than the national average, lawmakers were running around Springfield touting the brilliance of their bill that will bring 47,000 jobs to Illinois while providing the best protection in the nation for our groundwater.
Don't believe them on either count.
An economist at Illinois State University made the projections about fracking jobs, and the best, busiest case was for 47,312 jobs and a $9.5 billion economic impact. His low scenario was for just 1,034 jobs.
Even 1,000 jobs is a great thing, but no matter how much disclosure and regulation the current fracking bill contains, we're dealing with a technology that relies on cracking rock to release natural resources trapped in other cracks in rocks. The risk is that at some point a crack is going to reach the water table and poison some portion of it.
Don't expect hydraulic fracturing to be a jackpot for Illinois. The better way for us and our lawmakers to view it is as a cost, and to consider how it plays into the price we're willing to pay at the pump, through foreign entanglements and in our environment.