It’s primary season, which generally means Democratic candidates for President are trying to see who can swing farthest Left. This is especially true when it comes to punishing the oil and gas industry that supplies most of the country’s energy.
The latest test of party purity involves promises to ban fracking if elected. Senator Elizabeth Warren is but one of many to make such a promise, tweeting:
Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Kamala Harris have both made similar promises. But these are simply not realistic promises.
What Fracking Did For America
The resurgence of U.S. oil and gas production over the past dozen years is directly attributable to fracking. While fracking has been going on in the U.S. since the late 1940s, it wasn’t until just after the turn of the century that it began to be increasingly used in conjunction with horizontal drilling. That marriage of technologies ushered in the fracking boom and resulted in a renaissance of oil and gas production.
The resurgence of natural gas production followed years of decline and corresponding natural gas price spikes. But as production rose, natural gas prices collapsed. This price collapse was a major factor for utilities switching from coal to natural gas, which in turn resulted in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions declining by more than any other nation. The U.S. became the top natural gas producer in the world, and began to export liquefied natural gas (LNG).
With respect to oil, in 2005 net imports of oil and finished products like gasoline had reached 13 million barrels per day (BPD). But fracking sent U.S. oil production soaring, and that has been the single biggest factor in seeing these net imports drop to less than 1 million BPD.
Consequences of a Ban
How do proponents of a ban envision that it would work? They foresee modest and controlled production declines, offset by other policies that would reduce oil demand. In other words, they don’t believe a ban would lead to a steady increase in oil imports.