Fact Checking the ‘Keep It In the Ground’ Movement

“Keep It In the Ground” activists continue to spread misinformation about responsible oil and natural gas development both in Illinois and throughout the United States. IPRB will maintain and update the following living document countering “Keep It In the Ground” myths with the facts.


UPDATE: May 23, 2019

MYTH: The U.S. oil and natural gas boom has led to a dramatic spike in methane emissions, and methane leaks from oil and natural gas systems make natural gas worse for the climate than other fuels.

FACT: Natural gas has indisputable climate advantages over other traditional fuels and U.S. methane emissions have not spiked since the shale revolution began. The International Energy Agency has affirmed the climate benefits of natural gas, even taking into account methane leakage, stating that natural gas “generates far fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than coal when generating heat or electricity, regardless of the timeframe considered.” A recent NOAA study also finds that there has been no statistically significant increase in U.S. methane emissions since the domestic oil and gas boom began. This finding echoes the latest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data, which shows U.S. oil and natural gas system methane emissions have declined two percent since 2005 at the same time oil production has increased 81 percent and natural gas production has spiked 55 percent.


MYTH: The U.S. oil and natural gas boom has impeded renewable energy growth.

FACT: The U.S. oil and natural gas boom has actually accelerated renewable energy growth. A 2016 National Bureau of Economic Research report found that renewable electricity generation has grown at roughly the same rapid rate as natural gas-fired electrical generation over the past two-plus decades. This can be explained by the fact that renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar are intermittent and require natural gas backup for times when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. As the paper notes, “… renewables and fast-reacting fossil technologies appear as highly complementary and that they should be jointly installed to meet the goals of cutting emissions and ensuring a stable supply.” Because the shale revolution has made natural gas abundant and affordable, renewable energy generation capacity has increased dramatically over the past decade.

As former Clinton White House advisor Paul Bledsoe recently said of the shale revolution: “It’s a key reason renewables have grown so quickly.”

ORIGINAL POST: May 16, 2019

MYTH: We can live without fossil fuels.

FACT: Not only are fossil fuels projected to continue to meet nearly 80 percent of our energy needs through at least 2040, more than 6,000 products are derived from and/or manufactured with petroleum — including key components of infrastructure needed to generate renewable energy, such as solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and electric vehicles.[1] [2]


MYTH: Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) poses a systemic threat to groundwater.

FACT: More than two dozen scientific studies have concluded fracking poses no major threat to groundwater. Most notably, a landmark 2016 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study concluded that, “[H]ydraulic fracturing operations are unlikely to generate sufficient pressure to drive fluids into shallow drinking water zones.” The EPA reached this conclusion even after expanding the definition of fracking to include a wide range of other oilfield activities, demonstrating the safety of the entire development process. [3] [4]


MYTH: Oil demand has peaked and is in irreversible decline

FACT: Oil demand crossed the 100 million barrels per day threshold for the first time ever last year and is expected to increase to just under 110 million barrels per day by 2030. [5]


MYTH: The United States can immediately convert to 100 percent renewable energy.

FACT: Reliability and land use issues make a 100 percent renewable transition virtually impossible. Fossil fuel backup (usually natural gas) is necessary for wind and solar power generation due to the intermittent nature of both. It is also estimated that a 100 percent renewable conversion would require as much as one-third of the United States land space to be covered by solar panels and wind turbines. [6]


MYTH: The United States oil and natural gas boom has exacerbated climate change.

FACT: The United States leads the world in carbon dioxide reductions this century, a trend that has largely been attributed to increased natural gas use. The United States cut its carbon dioxide emissions 862 million tons from 2005 to 2017, a 14 percent decline. In fact, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg even recently noted the United States is meeting the goals of Paris Climate Accords despite the Trump administration’s plans to withdraw from the non-binding agreement. [7] [8]

The United States’ greenhouse gas emissions cuts have “been the largest in the history of energy” over the past 10 years and have come at the same time domestic oil production has increased more than 80 percent. [9]


Illinois Specific “Keep It In the Ground Claims”

CLAIM: “You can be half a mile from a well and a horizontal well can go right under your property and you wouldn’t know about it. So there are no defensive actions you can take, like getting a test on your water wells.” — William Rau, Illinois Peoples’ Action [10]

FACT: Disclosure of the location and track of all horizontal well bores is a required aspect of the permitting process. Therefore, landowners in Illinois are fully aware if a horizontal well is drilled under their property. The suggestion that subsurface trespass is occurring is false. [11]


CLAIM: “[T]he (fracking) process also comes with a risk of exposure to radioactive elements… If you look at what has been happening in recent years in Pennsylvania and North Dakota, the radioactive contamination coming out of those wells has been a disaster for those communities.” — Rich Whitney, Vice Chairman Illinois Green Party and Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment steering committee member [12]

FACT: A recent peer-reviewed Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection study states “there is little potential for harm to workers or the public from radiation exposure due to oil and gas development.”[13]


CLAIM: “Low and medium volume fracking is governed by the antiquated 1951 Oil and Gas Act. Using that act’s confidentiality clause, fracking companies can frack in secret for a period of 2 years without disclosing any information to the public.” — Illinois Coalition Against Fracking [14]

FACT: All information pertaining to hydraulic fracturing activities in Illinois is provided to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and can be accessed by the public.


CLAIM: “Residents in the vicinity of wells with horizontal or directional extensions in other states have suffered adverse health and/or declines in their property values.” — Illinois Coalition Against Fracking [15]

FACT: Several state departments of environmental protection have installed air monitors at well sites and found that emissions during oil and natural gas development do not exceed public health thresholds. There is also no research that indicates that the health of people living near oil and gas wells has been – or is likely to be – harmed by exposure to the additives mixed in with fracking fluid. A 2016 University of Chicago study also finds that home values near unconventional oil and gas development actually increased six percent after development began. All told, a vast majority of major U.S. shale states have seen their property values surge — the complete opposite of what fracking opponents have repeatedly claimed. [16] [17] [18] [19]


CLAIM: “Over 1000 scientific, medical and media findings demonstrate the risks of fracking since the passage of the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act on 6/16/12.” — Illinois Coalition Against Fracking [20]

FACT: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) officials have noted that the collection of research from which this claim is based is “hypothetical and not scientific and compiled by groups with an anti-fracking bias.” [21]


[1] https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/ieo/pdf/0484(2017).pdf

[2] https://www.iea.org/newsroom/news/2018/october/petrochemicals-set-to-be-the-largest-driver-of-world-oil-demand-latest-iea-analy.html

[3] http://www.ipaa.org/fracking/

[4] https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/hfstudy/recordisplay.cfm?deid=332990

[5] https://www.iea.org/newsroom/news/2018/october/petrochemicals-set-to-be-the-largest-driver-of-world-oil-demand-latest-iea-analy.html

[6] https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-100-clean-energy-gas-plants-20181220-story.html

[7] https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html

[8] https://freebeacon.com/issues/bloomberg-u-s-meeting-paris-climate-goals-without-being-part-of-the-agreement/

[9] https://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/IEA-Chief-US-Emission-Cuts-The-Largest-In-Energy-History.html?fbclid=IwAR2xM9LbHHT7zpnyRi2eQ0kGnvxatZY38IIW9ICpNmXyUrQ1PBASPE5Dyds

[10] http://www.nprillinois.org/post/activists-call-smaller-scale-fracking-transparency#stream/0

[11] https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/…/OGF-OG10PermitApplicationGuidanceForm.pdf

[12] https://mothernature.com/2017/06/groups-warn-of-radiation-exposure-associated-with-fracking/

[13] http://www.elibrary.dep.state.pa.us/dsweb/Get/Document-105822/PA-DEP-TENORM-Study_Report_Rev._0_01-15-2015.pdf

[14] http://ilbanfracking.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/HB282_Fact_Sheet_edited.pdf

[15] http://ilbanfracking.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/HB282_Fact_Sheet_edited.pdf

[16] https://www.energyindepth.org/new-data-debunks-claims-that-fracking-drives-down-property-values/?154

[17] https://eidhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Positive-Health-Compendium.pdf

[18] https://books.google.com/books?id=8ERADwAAQBAJ&pg=PT64&lpg=PT64&dq=To+date,+there+is+no+research+that+indicates+that+the+health+of+people+living+near+oil+and+gas+wells+has+been+%E2%80%94+or+is+likely+to+be+%E2%80%94+harmed+by+exposure+to+the+chemicals+mixed+in+with+fracking+fluid&source=bl&ots=xoevqIi4ZH&sig=bwZQcehXZ8MLhMHZRoy_MZDWj60&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiegYaJjeXbAhUUIjQIHVblBCEQ6AEIcjAL#v=onepage&q=To%20date%2C%20there%20is%20no%20research%20that%20indicates%20that%20the%20health%20of%20people%20living%20near%20oil%20and%20gas%20wells%20has%20been%20%E2%80%94%20or%20is%20likely%20to%20be%20%E2%80%94%20harmed%20by%20exposure%20to%20the%20

[19] https://epic.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/UCH-120116_FrackingResearch_final_1.pdf

[20] http://ilbanfracking.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/HB282_Fact_Sheet_edited.pdf

[21] https://denver.cbslocal.com/2018/10/23/reality-check-proposition-112/#.W9BmpZeTzAI.twitter

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