NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Fracking Helps Meet America's Energy Needs

October 24, 2013

Crude oil prices are hovering around $100 per barrel and the United States is producing oil at a rate not seen since the Alaska pipeline began flowing in the 1970s. At the same time, the growth of natural gas reserves is unprecedented. Just a few short years ago, many analysts argued that oil was nearly tapped out and that America needed to plan for a post-petroleum future. Now, however, natural gas has taken the stage, says H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has created a revolution in U.S. oil and natural gas production.

  • Fracking is the injection of a fluid mixture of water, sand and a small amount of other additives injected deep in the ground to fracture rock formations.
  • This process releases isolated pockets of oil and gas trapped in the surrounding shale rock that are otherwise inaccessible.

Advancements, such as horizontal drilling, coupled with increasing global demand for oil and domestic demand for natural gas, have turned shale drilling into a bright spot for the U.S. economy.

  • Natural gas has become the fuel of choice for generating base load electricity -- the minimum amount of power needed 24 hours a day.
  • Gas is still the preferred fuel for peaking power dispatched to the electric grid during times of peak demand.
  • Natural gas could not play this role without the vast reserves fracking opens up every day.
  • Fracking is currently responsible for more than 30 percent of U.S. domestic oil and natural gas reserves, and the National Petroleum Council estimates that 60 percent to 80 percent of all U.S. drilling over the next decade will require fracking.

The United States could increase oil and gas production even more, further reducing its need for foreign oil, if the federal government would remove barriers to increased production and avoid erecting new ones.

  • The federal government is considering more stringent regulations, despite study after study indicating that fracking has few, if any, negative environmental consequences.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency has already tried to halt a number of operations, only to back down when challenged in the courts.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett, "How Fracking Helps Meet America's Energy Needs," National Center for Policy Analysis, October 2013.


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