If all the anti-drillers' passion "gets channeled into vigilant regulation, then it will turn out to have been a good thing," Frankel said.

McAleer concedes that Fox appears to be swaying people in at least some states to oppose drilling.

McAleer thinks opponents have a very strong chance of banning fracking in New York, and a good chance of winning in places like Colorado and California. But he added that there's an irony to that.

New York has placed a moratorium on fracking, but natural gas is the top source of energy for the state, dwarfing hydroelectric or nuclear power. New York gets virtually all that natural gas from states that allow drilling, such as Pennsylvania.

Environmental groups in Colorado and California have also tried to limit or ban fracking, even though those states have long histories of oil and gas drilling.

"If you want to ban fracking, that's your business. But you're just shifting production to the next state," McAleer said.

Fox said, "New Yorkers are becoming increasingly aware that if they want to ban fracking they have to begin to change their energy infrastructure to renewable energy," and that more and more groups are pushing for that transition.

But even prominent scientists who warn about the dangers of global warming say the switch will take a long time.

"Suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy," former NASA scientist James Hansen wrote in an online essay in 2011.

Hansen added that "renewable energies are grossly inadequate for our energy needs now and in the foreseeable future."

That's essentially why the Obama administration supports using natural gas as a "bridge" fuel during the transition to renewables, since gas emits half the carbon dioxide of coal.

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