The “Fatal Co…

The “Fatal Conceit” of Federal Hydraulic Fracturing Regs

There is a push to implement federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” There are plenty of problems with the specific regulations that proponents have in mind. However, we can also step back and realize that the very premiseof federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing ignore the lessons in humility that Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek tried to teach.
Whatever one thinks of the pros and cons of hydraulic fracturing, clearly the alleged dangers are local issues. In other words, even if we accept for the sake of argument that hydraulic fracturing cannot be economically justified because its total costs (all things considered) outweigh its total benefits, notice that these costs would be borne by the people living near the hydraulic fracturing. People in Hawaii have absolutely nothing on the line when it comes to the issue of hydraulic fracturing in (say) Pennsylvania. In fact, the people in Hawaii only stand to benefit from hydraulic fracturing, because the only way it can impact them is by providing lower energy prices.
Thus we see that hydraulic fracturing, by its very nature, confers benefits on the whole world (in the form of greater supplies of oil and natural gas) while any potential harms are concentrated primarily in the communities where the hydraulic fracturing actually occurs. Thus any federal regulations that hindered hydraulic fracturing would be nonsensical, and would amount to pure paternalism. It would effectively mean the representatives of the American people in general, were telling the people in Pennsylvania (say) that they are too stupid to make decisions about hydraulic fracturing that could harm only them, and therefore the rest of us will have to take that responsibility away from them.

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