Andrew Follett, DCNF
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz claimed in an “exit memo” the Department of Energy (DOE) deserved credit for hydraulic fracturing boom that unleashed U.S. oil and natural gas production.
The memo states DOE funding helped create the technology that led to the current fracking boom, which has reduced U.S. imports of foreign oil.
“Due to early DOE investments and the advances made by U.S. companies, domestic production of crude oil rose from 5 million barrels per day in 2008 to 9.4 million barrels per day in 2015, the highest production rate since 1972,” Moniz wrote in his exit memo.
Moniz appears to be talking about a relatively small amount of money put into fracking research in the 1970s, decades before the boom occurred.
DOE put an inflation-adjusted $4.5 billion into unconventional oil research during the 1970s — for reference, that pales in comparison to the $13 billion green energy got in subsidies during 2013 alone.
Energy experts, however, disagree with the federal government taking credit for fracking.
Texas Tech energy professor Michael Giberson said federal involvement in the creation of fracking was “merely convenient to technological advancement and not necessary.” William O’Keefe, president of the conservative George C. Marshall Institute, wrote that President Barack Obama has “greatly overstated the government’s role in making shale gas commercially viable.”
Fracking and directional drilling techniques were first developed by private industry in the 1940s. The first commercial fracking was performed in western Kansas in 1947, though the process wasn’t widely adopted for some time.
The Obama administration may tout fracking’s benefits, but it has pushed regulations to curb drilling. The administration has repeatedly taken legal action against fracking, and has pushed regulations on the drilling technique.
Energy prices dropped 41 percent over the course of 2015 due to fracking, according to DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).
“Because of these efforts on domestic natural gas production, clean energy, and energy efficiency, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the first six months of 2016 were at their lowest levels since 1991,” Moniz wrote in his memo. “Since 2008, energy-related [carbon dioxide] CO2 emissions in the United States have been reduced by more than 500 million metric tons annually.”
America’s CO2 emissions have fallen by 12 percent since their high in 2005. The EIA estimates roughly 68 percent of the falling CO2 emissions are due to the switch from coal to natural gas. Natural gas emits about half the CO2 of coal power, and is already cheaper than coal in many locations due to fracking.
Fracking cut more CO2 emissions than solar or wind power, according to a study published last November by the Manhattan Institute. The study shows solar power is responsible for 1 percent of the decline in American CO2 emissions, while natural gas is responsible for nearly 20 percent. For every ton of CO2 cut by solar power, fracking cuts 13 tons.
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