The fracks of life

The most remarkable energy-exploration technological breakthrough in our lifetime continues to bring good news.

Cast your mind back to the 2000s. Remember the War on Terror and the argument over causes and (depending upon one’s taste for tales of grand conspiracies) ulterior motivations. Remember, too, the spikes in gasoline prices, the hardships on families, and the shrugged explanations that it’s only going to get worse as oil grows more scarce and OPEC grows stronger in its cartel ability to dictate supply levels.

Despite all their vociferous differences, Americans were by and large in agreement that it would be nice if we were more energy-independent.

Speaking broadly, for those on the right that meant more oil drilling here, including offshore and in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. For the left, it meant getting off fossil fuels and using more domestic energy resources (i.e., renewables) because that would reduce energy emissions.

Now consider these recent headlines:

In a speech today, Bob Dudley, the CEO of British Petroleum, “noted that global energy demand remains strong and growing, but abundant supplies of oil and gas are now a fact of life.”

The chief energy correspondent of Bloomberg News, Javier Blas, found that important enough to tweet it out with a banner:

So two major hopes of the 2000s have been realized, as unlikely as that seemed at the time. The U.S. has a thriving domestic oil industry that isn’t under OPEC’s thumb, and oil is plentiful so gasoline prices are not nearly as burdensome as they were a decade ago.

And the third?

Yes, despite presumptions in media reports, energy-based emissions have been falling this century in the U.S. — and also in North Carolina.

As a satisfying bonus, OPEC now has to beg U.S. producers not to produce so much, pretty please — and this after they tried to put U.S. producers out of business by undercutting prices. Back then it was thought $60/barrel would smother them. Now? Even $30/barrel — which is far below where OPEC would like to go — would not impact U.S. production that much.

Why?

What happened?

What changed?

This: Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) was successfully combined with horizontal drilling to unlock incalculable U.S. reserves of oil and natural gas hitherto trapped in shale.

This was one of the greatest technological innovations in recent memory, leading to a remarkable revolution in energy and fulfilling hopes that seemed unachievable without massive social and economic upheaval just a decade ago.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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