Survey: Many Americans Don't Know What Fracking Is

While the debate about fracking rages on the Hill, many are clueless about what the practice entails.

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Despite all the buzz about domestic natural gas and oil resources revolutionizing the nation's global energy role, many Americans haven't heard of the controversial technique used to extract those resources.

More than half of those surveyed by the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication said they knew little or nothing at all about hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. About 22 percent of people surveyed said they've heard "some" about fracking, and just 9 percent heard "a lot." (The figures add up to less than 100 percent due to rounding error, according to the Center.)

But among those who have heard of fracking, a slim majority were wary of the practice, with about 59 percent saying they thought it was "bad." About 42 percent thought it was good, with 8 percent saying fracking was "very good." 

The data on public perceptions of fracking comes as the battle over draft federal rules regulating the practice on public land heats up. The American Petroleum Institute urged the Department of the Interior Tuesday to extend the comment period for the draft rules released on May 16, rules that some experts think could become templates for state regulations that govern fracking.

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The rules have "the potential to significantly impact domestic energy production, as well as national, state, and local economies," the API letter to the Interior stated. API is requesting a 120-day comment period, four times as long as the usual public comment time frame.

Lawmakers are entering the fray as well. In a May 17 letter, Reps. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., echoed the sentiments of API in their bid to secure a longer comment period, calling the 30-day time frame "unacceptable" and "not nearly long enough to allow the public to formulate in-depth and constructive comments on this 171-page, complicated rule."

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Interior Department has received the requests but has not yet responded.

The regulations aren't just irritating industry heavyweights and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Environmentalists are also disappointed, arguing that the rules didn't go far enough to protect local communities from the impacts of fracking.

[ALSO: Fracking Might Be Worse for the Environment Than We Think]

The new draft rules ease several sections of the original rule, which required oil and gas companies to disclose the chemicals used in the fracking process. Under the new rule, companies are allowed keep trade secret ingredients under wraps and disclose other additives on an industry-maintained database.

"Americans in communities around the country are being bulldozed by an industry run amok," Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote in a recent post. "They need action from our leaders in Washington to protect their clean water, clean air, health and quality of life."

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