NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Hydraulic Fracturing: A Game-Changer for Energy and Economies

December 5, 2013

North America is expected to become energy-independent by 2020 due to smart drilling techniques such as fracking, says Isaac Orr, a research fellow at the Heartland Institute.

Hydraulic fracturing has led to a 34 percent increase in U.S. natural gas production since 2005, making the United States the largest producer of natural gas in the world. Thanks to fracking, the United States is projected to replace Saudi Arabia as the top petroleum producer by 2017.

  • Last year marked the largest one-year increase in oil production in U.S. history, with production increasing by 14 percent over the previous year.
  • Corresponding with that increase in production, oil imports as a percent of U.S. consumption have fallen from 70 percent in 2009 to 37 percent in February of 2013.
  • Consumers have benefited greatly from fracking in the form of lower natural gas prices, with customers saving more than $100 billion in 2011 alone.
  • Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created as a result of fracking, and those numbers are expected to continue to increase. Williams County, North Dakota, has seen a 316 percent growth in jobs, from 8,671 in 2000 to 36,107 in the third quarter of 2012.

But despite these benefits, environmentalists insist that fracking endangers the environment and contaminates groundwater, leading many to call for regulation of the process.

  • But despite the misleading scene in the movie "Gasland," in which a Colorado resident ignites the water running from his faucet, there has yet to be a confirmed case of hydraulic fracturing contaminating drinking water. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission determined that the methane in the "Gasland" faucet was naturally occurring and came from coal formations, not natural gas.
  • A Duke University study analyzed 68 water wells in the Marcellus Shale and found that 85 percent of them contained methane to begin with, regardless of fracking or natural gas operations.
  • Without confirmed cases of contamination that can be linked to fracking, there is no science to support calls to end the practice.

Source: Isaac Orr, "Hydraulic Fracturing: A Game-Changer for Energy and Economies," Heartland Institute, November 2013.


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