Thus far, the defining moment for the Obama Administration’s energy policy has been his rejection of the Keystone Pipeline, which would have brought oil from Canadian tar sands to refineries in the United States. In our view, this was a massive blunder that needlessly decreased U.S. access to much-needed energy during a time of rising prices while damaging the relationship with one of America’s most trusted allies. Yet despite past blunders on green tech and oil pipelines, Obama now seems to be moving in the right direction on a non-unicorn-based energy source: hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.According to the Wall Street Journal, the Interior Department is preparing to release a report outlining new rules for oil companies using fracking on federal land. Under these new rules, energy companies will have to specify the fluids used in their fracking to ensure that the process does not pollute the groundwater. The new regulations, however, show that the Administration has been listening to the concerns of energy companies, softening the rules to allow drilling companies to release this information to the government after the process has begun rather than in advance—a requirement that may have slowed the process significantly. Some producers are still chafing at the revised plan, but others appear happy with the outcome.The exact details of the new rules have yet to be released, but in general, the change seems very sensible. Green opponents of fracking are wrong to think that we should abandon the practice. Unlike renewable power sources like solar, fracking is economically viable now, without government subsidies, and it is much cleaner than coal and safer than nuclear.This doesn’t mean that there are not legitimate concerns that fracking could pollute the groundwater. For fracking to remain a viable extraction method going forward, Americans will need to be convinced that it is safe, especially when it happens near populated areas. Striking the proper balance between efficiency and safety in drilling should be the main thrust of our energy policy, and with these new regulations it looks like the Administration is at least beginning to move in that direction.Is this the beginning of a more sensible energy policy from the Administration? We can only hope.
Obama Opens Up to Fracking