However, if we look to California, a different picture emerges. California’s main supplies of oil 20 years ago were its own production and Alaskan production. Neither California nor Alaska engage in fracking to any appreciable extent. Both states have missed out on the fracking-enabled shale oil boom. Instead, oil production in Alaska and California have steadily declined.
Meanwhile, even though California has the nation’s most aggressive policies to reduce oil demand, that demand hasn’t going down appreciably. As a result, California’s dependence on foreign oil has skyrocketed as its two main sources of domestic production have declined.
This is instructive, because it is an actual case study of “no fracking” over time. Before the fracking boom, the entire country was becoming increasingly dependent on foreign oil. But even though overall U.S. oil imports have plummeted as U.S. shale oil production has grown, California’s foreign oil dependence continues to climb steadily higher.
According to data from Baker Hughes, nearly 90% of all new oil and gas wells today are horizontal, fracked wells. An immediate ban on fracking — as these candidates have proposed — would result in an immediate decline in U.S. oil and gas production.
Net oil imports, which have been trending down for years, would immediately reverse direction. U.S. dependence on foreign oil would again begin to grow. We don’t have to fantasize about what might happen if we simultaneously adopt aggressive policies to curb demand. We just need to look at the actual results in California.
Natural gas exports would also morph back into natural gas imports. Because global natural gas demand is growing, countries with LNG needs would in many cases turn to countries with fewer environmental protections than the U.S. You may rightfully be concerned about some methane leakage from U.S. wells, but many countries have a fraction of the environmental controls we have in the U.S.
Conclusion: Pandering or Naivety
These are some of the things that would happen if fracking was immediately banned. Those calling for an immediate ban are either pandering, or they are naive. In reality, an immediate ban wouldn’t happen, because a President would never get the political support to enact such a national ban. Local bans will sometimes win support, but there will never be a nationwide ban.
These candidates probably know this — and some may even be aware of the consequences — in which case they are simply pandering to voters. But in the process, they risk losing moderate voters who may have otherwise voted for them.