July 22, 2015
OP-ED: Federal Government Undermining Technology in the Energy Era
By Rob Bishop
A country that undermines its own technological advancements is a country in peril.
A decade ago, establishment experts, bureaucrats, and environmental extremists were convinced the world was running out of fossil fuels - the organic energy found deep underground that plays an elemental role in our daily lives. With the supply petering out, they prophesied, costs would rocket sky-high, forcing average Americans to limit their energy use. There were still natural gas and oil deposits remaining, but those were doomed to remain out of reach, trapped in impermeable rock.
Where the naysayers saw an ending, American entrepreneurs saw a beginning. Ignoring conventional wisdom, a few American oil and natural gas companies, called "wildcatters" for their unbridled spirit and fierce determination, achieved a series of breakthroughs in the late 1990s. By the turn of the 21st century, these innovators mastered the application of hydraulic fracturing to horizontal drilling, enabling them to develop unconventional rock formations. This unleashed what's known as the American shale renaissance because it ushered in a modern era of abundant, wealth-creating, lasting energy.
What lay ahead would not be your grandfather's oil and gas industry. Hydraulic fracturing is a highly technical process that involves the injection of fluids at high pressure into solid shale rock in order to unlock the natural gas and oil trapped inside, miles below the Earth's surface. Visiting a fracturing site today feels like walking onto a spaceship, complete with sonar maps, switchboards, cameras and engineers working around the clock.
NASA has even partnered with the oil and gas industry to harness the technology that petroleum engineers spearheaded for space exploration.
The nation's energy prospects changed ostensibly overnight. In 2005, about 60 percent of the petroleum consumed by the United States was imported from foreign countries. In 2014, that number fell to 27 percent. Whereas once the conversation hinged on Peak Oil, we've now entered a new era of growing energy accessibility and abundance. The prices at the pump prove it.
However, since the beginning of the U.S. shale revolution the campaign of unfounded allegations from the Left has been relentless.
Distressed that America has discovered access to homegrown fuels, these radical environmental groups want to stop this progress completely. They stir up fear and mistrust of the process, which scientists and academics have proven to be completely safe. Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency released a landmark five-year study demonstrating that hydraulic fracturing poses negligable threat to drinking water.
Nevertheless, the Obama Administration ignores its own study by moving forward on new regulations that threaten to undo the progress that hydraulic fracturing has made. The U.S. Department of the Interior finalized its hydraulic fracturing rule which imposes a blanket mandate on operations on federal lands. Right now, a ban on crude oil exports - a relic of the 1970s - still stands in place despite the abundance of oil unlocked by hydraulic fracturing in the United States. The Administration continues to block access to offshore resources, which cripples development of these resources for decades to come.
These regulations, by their very design, are a threat to American entrepreneurs, their innovation and future energy potential. Hydraulic fracturing, directional drilling and the range of other new technologies are highly sophisticated inventions that are the envy of the world, but these policies undermine these technologies, ban producers from developing the offshore and drive them away from developing America's resource-rich federal lands. The loss of production leads to lost revenue for the Treasury, weakens our economy and diminishes our newfound energy leadership on the world stage.
Hydraulic fracturing is a technology that emerged from a great American need and a greater American answer - the need for energy to power our lives and the American response of entrepreneurial spirit and iron will.
American entrepreneurs proved the world wrong, and in doing so, changed the bleak course of the country's energy future.
Now, energy is more affordable and accessible than it has been in decades. American entrepreneurs have outdone themselves again, and will increase American prosperity and freedom, if environmental extremists and government bureaucrats don't rob us of their innovation first.
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