The United States has surpassed Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s biggest oil producer. The effect of this boom is difficult to overstate. It has fueled a much-needed economic resurgence and, perhaps most importantly, has given the nation a measure of energy self-reliance that could dramatically limit the power of despots and tyrants in the world’s other oil-rich nations.
This resurgence was unthinkable only a few years ago, but has been made possible to a large degree by hydraulic fracking, a drilling technique that involves fracturing the earth far below the surface using chemicals and pressure.
From an environmental standpoint, this has been a controversial practice. But a recently released study by the EPA, while certainly not the final word on the subject, signals that the practice ought to continue. It should, however, be regulated to ensure it is done properly in order to safeguard water supplies.
The EPA study included several peer-reviewed scientific reports. It also examined 3,500 studies and data sources previously published on the subject. It then concluded there is no evidence to suggest fracking has caused any widespread contamination of drinking water. While fracking has, in some instances, fouled water supplies, those instances were insignificant in comparison to the overall number of fracking wells, which grew by 25,000 to 30,000 each year between 2011 and 2014, and is still growing today.
The EPA report is one of those rare studies that both sides of the environmental divide have seized on to support their causes. Environmentalists have the hardest time doing so, having to argue that the report is incomplete. But they also note that it supports their thesis that the practice can indeed harm water supplies.
Gas and oil interests argue the report ought to be evidence enough for them to proceed without any further government interference.
Reality lies somewhere in the middle, but certainly closer to the side of the energy producers. Fracking, done properly and with the proper techniques and safety valves, is a vital tool that will push the nation’s economy forward while protecting national security.
It won’t destroy ISIS or remove the threats to peace posed by al-Qaida-linked terrorists, but it will reduce U.S. reliance on oil from the Middle East, which may force the wealthy monarchs who control power in parts of that region to confront the need for more democratic reforms.
Utah, a state rich in underground reserves, stands to profit from further energy extraction, as well. The report ought to bolster the state’s pending legal challenge against the Bureau of Land Management, which has tried to impose federal regulations that duplicate those already imposed by the state.
As the report demonstrates, regulations are important. Duplication, however, is unnecessary.
Despite efforts by cartels to destroy the U.S. energy boom through lower prices, production continues. Given the benefits of this resurgence, governments should regulate wisely and in such a way as to not hamper the nation’s new favorable position.