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Obama Opens Up to Fracking

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.

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  • thibaud

    That Sierra Club check must have cleared.

  • vanderleun

    “Obama Opens Up to Fracking”

    You know, a man with a mean sensibility, a tendency to insult the president, and a spare 600,000 gallons of guar based fluids could really go to work on that headline. Fortunately I am not that man.

  • Kansas Scott

    I highly recommend an article “The Future of Natural Gas” over at Climate Etc:

    It’s not my field but I found the article to be well-written, well-reasoned and well worth the few minutes it takes to read.

  • Luke Lea

    [OT: People Not In Labor Force Soar By 522,000, Labor Force Participation Rate Lowest Since 1981 Zero Hedge]

  • Richard F. Miller

    @thibaud: Lol!

    Professor, don’t unfasten your seatbelt. Obama’s presidency is a rhetorical affair in which lips flap while his hands dart elsewhere.

    It’s not insightful to note that he’s long since worn out his speechifying welcome. It’s not just quantity, it’s also quality: if deeds matched words, our budget would be balanced, unemployment would never have spiked above 8%, and the sea levels would have receded.

    Whatever be the forthcoming rules, rest assured that anything offensive to the enviros won’t be in them. Remember, part of his electoral strategy is to drive turnout on the left, and in a very big way.

    He can’t afford to lose a single friendly vote, and he’s not going to risk doing so by adopting a sensible energy policy.

  • Bill Jones

    There really is something deeply [wrong with] about a mind that views Canada as “one of America’s most trusted allies” rather than a conveniently located trading partner.
    It’s no wonder the Military Industrial Complex has racked up 16 trillion dollars in debt.

  • Albert

    It is not “tar sands”. It is “oil sands”.

  • Moneyrunner

    Yoou are going to regret writing that.

  • Corlyss

    A temporary political move at best. The instant the One is re-elected, he’ll shut it down. The man-bites-dog story about the beggarly W. Va. Dem gov and Dem senator rebuffing Obama over his war on coal is amusing but not a long term trend.

  • justaguy

    Until we see the rules and how they are implemented, I wouldn’t rush to buy stock in natural gas companies. The devil is in the details and I have suspicion that there is enough room in the announcement to allow the Federal Government to severely slow or stop fracking if Obama wins the election.

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