The onslaught of COVID-19 will one day pass and we will get back to normal life. Our reality is that we must march on as best we can. There will be an election in November, so let us get to it.
The question: why did so many presidential candidates (two still are) propose energy policies that were: (1) a direct threat to U.S. national security, (2) morally unjust, (3) counter to climate change goals, (4) sure to raise energy prices, and (5) designed to put millions of people out of work?
Just look at the roughly 20 candidates that ran for the Democratic nomination. Most of them opposed fracking and the export of oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG). Elizabeth Warren promised to “ban fracking – everywhere” and also make it impossible to export LNG. Still running, Bernie Sanders says “we are going to ban fracking in 50 states of this country” and opposes all fossil fuel exports – as did most of the others that were involved in the race, including Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Tom Steyer.
Even the more measured but prone to mixed messaging Joe Biden has apparently joined these ranks (“no new fracking”). Generally, he has advocated more regulation and a ban on new drilling on federal lands – areas accounting for ~20% of domestic oil production and ~15% of our natural gas. Santayana meet Joe: “Hillary Clinton’s Mistake On Fracking For Natural Gas.”
Since 2008, U.S. crude oil production has been up 165%, and gas increased nearly 70%. Fracking now accounts for 80% of U.S. oil and gas production. The U.S. is an energy powerhouse and produces more oil than Saudi Arabia and more gas than Russia. In 2019, we exported over three million barrels of crude oil per day and more than doubled gas exports. These exports mean rising prosperity in the U.S., a better trade balance and meeting the desperate needs of energy-impoverished nations across the world.
(1) National Security – fracking is the basis of our once unimaginable energy self-sufficiency and net exporter status. A fracking ban puts our energy future in the hands of OPEC members and Russia – countries seeking to dominate global supply. U.S. allies need our supplies to counterweight growing Russian influence over energy markets. The International Energy Agency has the U.S. accounting for 85% of new global oil production and 30% of new gas through 2030. U.S. exports can constrain Russian political interference, thus: “Fiona Hill says that she heard Putin describe American fracking as a ‘great threat’ to Russia.” In Massachusetts, “Shoot yourself in the foot” energy policies forced the state to import LNG from U.S.-sanctioned Russia in the two previous winters. “
(2) Justice – U.S. LNG exports are a moral imperative to help developing nations lift billions out of abject poverty while also lowering emissions. The UN reports that over three billion people rely on such biomass as wood and dung for heating and cooking, creating indoor air pollution that kills over four million a year and causes untold family suffering. Over one billion people do not have any electricity whatsoever. Another two billion have highly limited access. It is morally incumbent on such energy-rich nations as the U.S. to share resources with those who live bleak, dangerous and short lives because of energy deprivation. The reliable and afford energy that U.S. oil and gas could bring is needed now more than ever.
(3) Climate – President Obama championed gas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and backup naturally intermittent renewables. Gas accounts for 45% of U.S. generation capacity and will add 235,000 megawatts in new capacity through 2050, eight times more than wind and a third more than solar. Gas emits 50% less CO2 than coal, 30% less than oil and is the main reason the U.S. has been reducing CO2 emissions faster than any country. “LNG provides ‘quick wins’ for global GHG reductions: IEA.” Former President of the World Bank, Dr. J.Y. Kim warned that an “only wind, only solar” development plan for the world’s poor is impractical and utterly unfair. Being against such essential fuels will tragically just keep poor people poor.
(4) Energy Prices – the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that with a ban on fracking, gasoline prices would almost double within five years, families would pay twice as much for electricity and natural gas prices would rise 400%. Price increases would lead to a cost-of-living jump of nearly $4,000 a year while incomes would drop significantly. Talk about a disastrous reversal of our fortunes: the Council of Economic Advisers concludes “that the shale revolution saves U.S. consumers $203 billion annually, or $2,500 for a family of four.”
(5) Jobs – the Chamber’s report found a fracking ban would destroy over 19 million jobs within five years as the multiplicative impacts of no drilling reverberated through the U.S. economy, at a total loss of $7.1 trillion. Further, the lost opportunity costs would greatly constrain future economic growth and adversely impact the next generation. The oil and gas business is a job-producing machine. IHS Markit estimates that fracking will create nearly two million additional jobs by 2035.
No country ever has abandoned a natural resource of shale’s proven value. For those who think these numbers are hyperbole just consider: fracking will account for virtually 100% of our new oil and gas supply for decades to come. And we are set to become the largest oil and gas exporter in four or five years, critical to help the world buffer riskier players that relentlessly seek energy hegemony.
Now more than ever is the time to stand with those companies that supply the essential energy our economy and COVID-19 mobilization depend on every single day.
We are seeing the devastation of allowing ourselves to become so reliant on medical supply chains dominated by China.
More obvious now than ever, allowing the same thing to happen to our energy supply must be avoided at all costs.
Fracking opponents stand on the wrong side of history at the worst possible time.