2020 Talking Points on Fracking

By Alex Epstein

Fracking is one of the most important technologies in our economy and can be done very safely. Government should ban only dangerous misuses of fracking, not all fracking. A fracking ban is the fastest way to create a global recession and an American depression.

Quick summary

  1. Many politicians, including Joe Biden, support banning fracking--on federal lands or altogether. But fracking is required to produce over 60% of American oil and 75% of American natural gas. A frack ban is the single fastest way to create a global recession and an American depression.1 2
  2. Oil is the world’s leading source of energy because it provides low-cost, highly-concentrated energy for transportation. Oil provides 90% of the world’s transportation energy and has no scalable substitute for airplanes, cargo ships, and large agricultural equipment.3 4
  3. Fracking has taken us from a huge net importer of oil to a net exporter. In 2007, the US imported over 400 million gallons of oil per day. Last September, for the first time since records began in 1973, the US was a net oil exporter--a trend energy officials expect to continue.5 6
  4. A ban on fracking would take the same percentage of oil off the market as the 1973 Arab oil embargo did. That incident more than quadrupled oil prices and triggered a global recession. A smaller oil incident in 1979 also triggered a global recession.7
  5. Smart politicians know that restricting oil production = recession or worse. That’s why Barack Obama ran on ending “the tyranny of oil” but then ended the oil export ban and took credit for the fracking revolution: “America’s like the biggest oil producer…that was me, people.”8 9
  6. Fracking has added over 100 billion gallons of oil to annual oil production. And it has added even more energy in the form of natural gas--the equivalent of almost 200 billion gallons of oil a year!10
  7. Between 2008 and 2018 fracking natural gas added 17 times more energy to the US than all solar panels and wind turbines combined. And that’s 100% reliable energy, unlike the unreliable energy from solar and wind that needs constant backup from...fracked natural gas.11
  8. Does fracking endanger groundwater? Fracking is one of the world’s safest industrial practices for groundwater because it takes place a mile below groundwater. The biggest threat to groundwater is Mother Nature, who contaminates it with methane, arsenic, uranium, and salt.12 13
  9. Fracking, like many industrial activities, creates small earth movements--not dangerous earthquakes. A typical frack job moves the ground less than a semi truck driving down the road.14
  10. Because fracking is so vital to our lives and can be done safely and responsibly, it would be insane and cruel to ban fracking. We should continue to ban only dangerous misuses of fracking and otherwise continue to enjoy the prosperity this wonderful technology brings us.

References


  1. In a Democratic primary debate in March 2020 Joe Biden agreed to a radical “no new fracking” policy to attract Democratic voters. While most of the US unconventional oil and gas operations take place on private lands, even a federal policy banning new development would be a substantial hit on domestic energy production.

    Joe Biden’s energy plan also calls for a net-zero CO2 emissions economy wide by no later than 2050. His climate plan also promises aggressive new methane emission limits. Effectively, this amounts to a ban and early retirement of coal, gas, and oil for electricity generation (over 60% of the current total), as there is no cost-effective technology available to capture CO2 from fuel combustion, even though Biden tried to backpedal on the direct attacks against fracking recently.

  2. “The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that in 2019, about 2.81 billion barrels (or 7.7 million barrels per day) of crude oil were produced directly from tight oil resources in the United States. This was equal to about 63% of total U.S. crude oil production in 2019.”
    U.S. Energy Information Administration

    “The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that in 2019, U.S. dry shale gas production was about 25.28 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), and equal to about 75% of total U.S. dry natural gas production in 2019.”
    U.S. Energy Information Administration

    “More than 95% of U.S. natural gas and oil wells today are developed using hydraulic fracturing.” American Petroleum Institute - AMERICA’S PROGRESS AT RISK: An Economic Analysis of a Ban on Fracking and Federal Leasing for Natural Gas and Oil Development

  3. Oil provided 33% of global energy consumption in 2019, which makes it the leading source of energy, followed by coal and natural gas.

    BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2020

  4. Global transportation energy from oil and oil-derived fuels was 2,588,513 thousand tonnes of oil equivalent or 92% of the total 2,808,148 thousand tonnes of oil equivalent in 2017.

    IEA World Energy Balances

  5. The peak of crude oil imports by the US in 2007 occurred during the week of May 18 with 10,597 Mbbl (thousands of barrels) per day or over 445 million gallons per day.

    U.S. Energy Information Administration - Petroleum and other Liquids, Weekly Imports & Exports

  6. “In September 2019, the United States exported 89,000 barrels per day (b/d) more petroleum (crude oil and petroleum products) than it imported, the first month this has happened since monthly records began in 1973.”
    U.S. Energy Information Administration, December 5, 2019

  7. “When, in 1973, Saudi Arabia implemented an oil embargo and took some 4 mmbd off world markets (approximately 7% of the total at that time), world oil prices jumped 400% and triggered a global recession. Similarly, in 1979, the Iranian revolution took a comparable 5% of oil off world markets and prices spiked over 200%, sparking another global recession.”
    Mark P. Mills - Issues 2020: A Fracking Ban Would Trigger Global Recession

  8. “Let’s be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil.”
    Barack Obama in a February 2007 speech announcing his candidacy for president of the US as reported by the Denver Post

  9. “That whole, suddenly America’s like the biggest oil producer and the biggest gas that was me, people.”
    Valerie Richardson, The Washington Times as reported by Associated Press

  10. “The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that in 2019, about 2.81 billion barrels (or 7.7 million barrels per day) of crude oil were produced directly from tight oil resources in the United States. This was equal to about 63% of total U.S. crude oil production in 2019.”
    This is slightly over 118 billion gallons of oil (one barrel = 42 gallons).
    U.S. Energy Information Administration

    “The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that in 2019, U.S. dry shale gas production was about 25.28 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), and equal to about 75% of total U.S. dry natural gas production in 2019.”
    25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas can be converted into gallons of oil using energy conversion factors:
    25 trillion cf of natural gas = 25,925 trillion Btu ≈ 4.5 billion barrels of oil ≈ 190 billion gallons of oil.
    U.S. Energy Information Administration

  11. Between 2008, when the shale gas production took off, and 2018, US shale gas development produced an estimated total of 126,677 billion cubic feet or over 130,000 trillion Btu (using the conversion factor 1 cubic foot of natural gas = 1,037 Btu).
    U.S. Energy Information Administration - Shale Gas estimated production

    US electricity generation from solar and wind from 2008 to 2018 was 2,090,690 gigawatt hours or over 7,000 trillion Btu (using the conversion factor 1 kilowatt hour of electricity = 3,412 Btu).
    U.S. Energy Information Administration - Electricity Annual, Table 3.1.B. Net Generation from Renewable Sources: Total (All Sectors), 2008 - 2018

    This means shale gas production created about 18 times (or 1,800%) as much energy for the US as did solar and wind combined.

  12. “More than 25 scientific, peer-reviewed studies and expert assessments have concluded that hydraulic fracturing is not a major threat to groundwater. In fact, many studies have examined groundwater pollution and specifically ruled out fracking as the cause.”
    Independent Petroleum Association of America

  13. A 2009 study by the U.S. Geological Survey looking into the water quality of private wells found that “More than one in five (23 percent) of the sampled wells contained one or more contaminants at a concentration greater than a human-health benchmark” and\ “Contaminants most often found at concentrations greater than human-health benchmarks were inorganic chemicals, with all but nitrate derived primarily from natural sources”

    U.S. Geological Survey - Quality of Water from Domestic Wells in Principal Aquifers of the United States, 1991–2004

  14. Most of the geological activity related to frac’ing comes from the disposal of waste water in so-called injection wells. The requirement to dispose of waste water in such wells meant a dramatic increase in injection well capacity use due to increasing hydraulic fracturing.
    U.S. Geological Survey - Myths and Misconceptions About Induced Earthquakes