November 14 2012

Will Draconian Regulations Kill an Energy Revolution?

Charlotte Hays

One of the great dreams—cited by both candidates in the recent presidential race—is of an energy-independent United States.

Turns out, this is not a pipe dream. We have enough oil to outpace Saudi Arabia in production by 2020, according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency. Wow! This solves all sorts of problems, both domestic and foreign.

The innovative process for extracting this oil and natural gas is called hydrofracking. North Dakota and Pennsylvania are already benefiting from hydrofracking, which could create jobs and prosperity for more states in the future.

Washington Examiner columnist and Manhattan Institute senior fellow Diana Furchtgott-Roth writes:

Oil and gas clearly bring benefits. North Dakota's 3 percent unemployment rate is low due to insatiable demand for jobs, not only in energy, but in associated economic activity, such as housing, restaurants, movie theaters -- you name it.

Pennsylvania produces more than 80 billion cubic feet of natural gas a year. It has more than 2,000 wells in the Marcellus Shale, a geologic formation that stretches north into New York and south into West Virginia. Those wells have given the Keystone State an added $11.2 billion in economic activity a year and tens of thousands of jobs.

Sounds like deliverance, doesn't it? American energy that doesn't depend on the unstable Middle East--what could be better?

Just one drawback: the Obama administration is no fan of fossil fuels, even when they can be found in the U.S. rather than the undependable Middle East. Indeed, the immense clout of extreme environmentalist lobby makes the administration even more hostile to fossil fuels at home. So it is very likely that the Obama administration will seek to impose draconian regulations that deprive the country of what could otherwise be an amazing boom.

The Department of Energy is scheduled to release new regulations that could federalize decisions about hydrofracking. If this happens North Dakota and Pennsylvania will no longer have the final say over energy extraction within their borders.

Environmentalists, according to Furchtgott-Roth dislike hydrofracking for a number of reasons, some of which are conscientious but misguided. They worry about the contamination of water and the large demand for water the process makes. None of these concerns should be dismissed out of hand. But a knee jerk response to the environmentalist lobby would be a profound error, possibly killing the dream of an energy-independent U. S.

Firchtgott-Roth ends:

Wastewater from the hydrofracturing process is trucked away or piped to Environmental Protection Agency-certified treatment facilities. Until then, companies store it in steel or earthen-lined pits, with steel pits providing the most protection. Some water is recycled and used again for other drilling operations. Flowback from hydrofracturing fluids has never contaminated an underground aquifer or aboveground water source.

Each state should decide what is best for its residents. The New American Energy Revolution is here, and Washington should stay out of the way.

                      

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