NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Fracking Reverses Decline in U.S. Energy Production

November 13, 2013

In just three years, oil production in the United States has nearly reversed a 20-year-long production decline. A few short years ago, many analysts argued that oil was nearly tapped out and America needed to plan for a post-petroleum future.  What's changed? In a word: fracking, says H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

  • Since 2010, domestic oil production has increased from a low of 4.5 million barrels a day to about 7.5 million barrels a day.
  • Since summer 2011 alone, U.S. crude production has increased 2 million barrels per day.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, combined with technological advancements like horizontal drilling, has created something of a revolution in U.S. oil and natural gas production. By injecting a mixture of water, sand and a small amount of other additives deep underground to fracture rock formations, exploration companies are releasing isolated pockets of oil and gas trapped in the surrounding shale rock that are otherwise inaccessible.

  • Fracking is also 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 during the next decade will require fracking to remain viable.
  • Partly as a result of fracking, U.S. oil imports have declined to the lowest levels since the early 1980s.

Despite study after study indicating that fracking has only a relatively few, isolated, negative environmental consequences, current restrictions on offshore oil production and on public lands and in Alaska prohibit the exploration and production of billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. Production from these reserves would increase supplies, reduce prices and imports, and provide high-paying jobs to Americans.

The federal government should accept the mountain of evidence that fracking is largely safe, and it should streamline the permitting and leasing process on public lands -- leaving regulations on private land to the states -- in order to reap the fiscal, economic and energy bounty of fracking.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett, "Fracking Reverses Decline in U.S. Energy Production," Austin-American Statesman, November 11, 2013.


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