Why Is Solar Energy Better Than Fracking?

As the world’s energy demands continue to rise, there is an increasing need to develop sustainable and environmentally friendly energy sources. Two options that have received significant attention are solar power and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas. While both provide energy alternatives to traditional fossil fuels like coal and oil, they differ considerably in their environmental impacts and long-term viability. This article provides an overview and comparison of solar and fracking in key areas to assess the pros and cons of each approach.

With rising concerns over climate change and pollution, many argue renewable energy sources like solar offer a cleaner and more sustainable path forward. Meanwhile, advocates of fracking tout it as a “bridge fuel” that can meet short-term energy needs with fewer emissions than coal. Assessing the full environmental and social effects of these technologies is important to determine which investments and policies make the most sense for America’s energy future.

Environmental Impact

Solar energy is a renewable and clean source of energy that does not produce any air or water pollution. In contrast, fracking has been shown to negatively impact air and water quality in multiple ways. Fracking involves injecting large volumes of water, chemicals, and sand underground to fracture shale rock and release oil and gas. This process produces wastewater that can contaminate ground and surface water if not properly disposed of (https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/fracking). Fracking also releases volatile organic compounds into the air from wells, equipment, and storage tanks, contributing to smog and respiratory issues (https://ysph.yale.edu/news-article/integrated-effort-needed-to-mitigate-fracking-while-protecting-both-humans-and-the-environment/). Additionally, fracking emits the powerful greenhouse gas methane during the extraction process, which increases its climate impact (https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/011915/what-are-effects-fracking-environment.asp).

fracking harms air and water quality while solar is clean

Public Health

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been linked to numerous adverse health effects. A review by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found evidence that fracking may increase noise, traffic, and pollution, placing heavier burdens on local communities (source). Other studies have connected fracking to premature births, low birth weight, birth defects, asthma, fatigue, and heart problems (source). The chemicals used in fracking fluid have been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and may be carcinogenic.

In contrast, solar energy does not have documented adverse effects on human health. Solar panels produce electricity without any air or water emissions. While there are some environmental impacts from solar panel manufacturing and disposal, the operation of solar farms and rooftop solar arrays does not pose risks to public health. Widespread adoption of solar power can improve public health by reducing air pollution from fossil fuel power plants.


One of the major safety concerns with fracking is that it can cause earthquakes. While most fracking-related earthquakes are small, some have been large enough to cause property damage. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, fracking intentionally causes small quakes to enhance rock permeability. Fluid pressure from fracking wastewater injection wells is the primary cause of fracking-related earthquakes.

“How is hydraulic fracturing related to earthquakes and tremors?” U.S. Geological Survey

In contrast, solar energy does not cause earthquakes or seismic activity. Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity through photovoltaic cells. This process is safe and does not disrupt the earth’s crust like fracking wastewater injection does.

Job Creation

Both the solar and fracking industries create jobs, but studies show that over the long term, solar energy produces more jobs. According to a 2021 report, clean energy and energy efficiency create more jobs at comparable wages to fossil fuel extraction. The solar industry employs over 250,000 Americans, and is one of the fastest growing occupations in the country.

Fossil fuel jobs tend to be concentrated in particular geographic areas, while solar jobs are more distributed across communities nationwide. Investing in solar can bring new employment opportunities to struggling fossil fuel towns. One analysis found that transitioning to renewable energy could produce over 500,000 long-term, stable jobs in fossil fuel communities alone.

Energy Independence

Solar energy provides true energy independence, as it harnesses energy from the sun using panels that can be installed almost anywhere. Once installed, solar panels generate electricity without the need for any additional fuel source, offering a sustainable domestic source of energy (Source). In contrast, fracking relies on extracting fossil fuels like natural gas from the ground, so it still depends on finite resources that must be imported in many cases. Even as fracking boosts domestic fossil fuel production, it does not provide full energy independence like solar power can.

With solar power, America could become self-reliant for its energy needs. But with fracking, the country still depends on global fossil fuel reserves that will eventually dwindle. For true energy independence from foreign powers, solar power is the clear winner over continued reliance on fracking and fossil fuels (Source).


The cost of solar energy has fallen dramatically over the last decade, while the costs associated with fracking have increased. According to a 2021 article in Popular Science, “When it comes to the cost of energy from new power plants, onshore wind and solar are now the cheapest sources—costing less than gas, geothermal …” (https://www.popsci.com/story/environment/cheap-renewable-energy-vs-fossil-fuels/).

The declining prices of solar panels, as well as improvements in efficiency, have made solar power very affordable. The Sierra Club notes that “Solar and wind costs are lower over time mainly because the fuel is free.” At the same time, accessing shale gas through fracking is becoming more expensive as easy-to-access wells are depleted (https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2015-5-september-october/ask-mr-green/hey-mr-green-how-much-does-clean-energy-cost). Oil companies have to drill deeper wells and extract gas from less hospitable areas, driving up costs.

With solar installation prices dropping and fracking costs increasing, solar energy is becoming the more affordable option for energy production.

Government Subsidies

Fracking receives significantly more government subsidies than solar energy. According to the Texas Monthly, federal subsidies for fossil fuels and renewables are roughly equal in absolute dollar amounts across all energy uses. However, fracking receives a disproportionate share of fossil fuel subsidies. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute found that special provisions in the U.S. tax code provided numerous subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, totaling several billion dollars per year. Furthermore, a study by the Kentucky Public Service Commission showed that conventional energy industries like fracking benefit from numerous government subsidies that are either not available or applicable to the solar industry.

For example, the intangible drilling costs deduction provided over $2.3 billion in tax breaks to fossil fuel companies in 2016 alone. The percentage depletion allowance lets oil companies deduct a fixed percentage of income from wells. There are no comparable subsidies for solar energy production. While both industries receive government support, the mature oil and gas industry has received subsidies for over a century, while support for solar has only ramped up more recently.

Future Viability

Solar technology continues to improve in efficiency and cost-effectiveness. New solar panel materials and manufacturing methods have lowered solar costs over 85% in the past 10 years (Source). Experts predict solar will become even more affordable and widespread in coming years. In contrast, fracking is limited geographically to areas with extractable shale gas reserves. As easily accessible reserves are depleted, extracting remaining gas and oil becomes more challenging and expensive (Source). Solar energy can be generated wherever sunlight is available, giving it a distinct advantage over geographically constrained fracking. While fracking bought some time continuing fossil fuel dependence, solar represents the energy of the future with its unlimited renewable potential.


Based on the evidence gathered from multiple sources, solar energy is a superior choice over fracking for meeting energy needs in the United States. Solar power and other renewable energy sources have far less environmental impact compared to fracking, which can pollute air and water sources. Fracking also poses public health and safety risks like earthquakes, while solar does not.

Furthermore, solar power creates more jobs per unit energy generated and enhances energy independence by relying on abundant domestic energy resources. Although solar currently has higher upfront costs, its costs are dropping rapidly and government incentives make it highly affordable. Fracking, on the other hand, requires ongoing drilling and heavy subsidies.

Looking forward, solar and renewable energy will continue to grow more efficient and cheaper over time, while fossil fuels like natural gas extracted by fracking are limited resources. For all these reasons, transitioning to solar power and other renewables represents the smarter long-term energy investment for America.

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