The Sierra Club and other environmental pressure groups are redoubling their efforts to “stop fracking in its tracks.” No wonder. The technology is an existential threat to fundamental “green” dogmas.
Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing is a true “game changer.” In less than two years, this proven but still rapidly advancing technology has obliterated longstanding claims that we are running out of petroleum. Instead, the USA now finds itself blessed with centuries of oil and gas.
Poland and Estonia are using it, China has invited companies to the Middle Kingdom, Britain, Israel and Jordan are evaluating their shale deposits, and other nations are following suit – coaxing oil and natural gas from shale and other rock formations that previously had refused to yield their hydrocarbon riches.
By making more natural gas available, fracking has reduced the US price for this clean-burning fuel to under $3 per thousand cubic feet (or million Btu), compared to a peak of $8 a few years ago.
Natural gas is also supplanting coal for electricity generation. Due to excessive, mostly unnecessary new Environmental Protection Agency regulations, many US coal-fired power plants are shutting down. Replacement plants are far more likely to be gas-powered than nuclear, especially in the near term.
Natural gas makes heating and electricity more affordable for families, hospitals, government buildings and businesses; feed stocks less expensive for makers of plastics, paints, fabrics and other petrochemical products; and the prospect of natural gas-power vehicles more enticing, without mandates or subsidies. That translates into thousands of jobs created or saved.
Companies are keeping chemical plants open that were slated to close, due to soaring prices for oil that they now can readily replace with cheap natural gas. Shell plans to build a $2-biillion ethane “cracking” plant near Pittsburgh – creating 10,000 construction jobs and 10,000 permanent jobs – thanks to abundant gas from Marcellus Shale. Louisiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and other states are reporting subsidy-free employment and revenue gains from shale gas development. More are likely to follow, as companies seek new ways to capitalize on access to abundant, inexpensive, reliable gas.
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