How Fracking is Revolutionizing US Energy

A hot-button subject during presidential debates not only this primary season, but during every US election year in the last few centuries has been our dependance on foreign oil. This is, of course, because of the ever-fluctuating price of oil from Middle-East members of OPEC and our dependance as a nation on oil as an energy source. Now hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is taking the front seat as a debated subject and a means of self sufficiency for US energy.

By 1989, the United State’s dependence on foreign oil was at 47. By 2006, oil imports peaked at 60 percent. Since then, however, the United States has begun to slowly but surely wriggle free from the clutches of its dependance on foreign oil as a means of energy, capped off by President Obama’s pushes to “free ourselves from foreign oil” in 2012.

Currently, our dependance on foreign oils continues to drop since its peak in the mid 2000s. Partially to thank for this is fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing may be the answer to the United States becoming completely energy self-sufficient in the next few decades. The process is fairly straightforward and has been refined and improved over time, eventually rising to the point of being the most efficient means of collecting natural gas in existence.

To start the process, a large drill bores its way into the earth over a natural gas deposit. From there, a pressurized liquid is injected into the rock, fracturing it and allowing the natural gas contained within it to be released. Though the process started with mostly vertical drilling processes, recent exploration of horizontal drilling has allowed fracking to capture an even higher amount of natural gas, thereby increasing the overall productivity and efficiency of the project.

The liquid injected in the process involves several different agents, typically a mixture of sand, water and chemicals. The sand is useful in holding the fissures open after the pressure has been released, allowing more gas to leak out and be collected.

Fracking is hardly a new technology, as its roots can be traced back as far as the early 1900s. The first commercial fracking processes came into existence around 1940 and were explored and studied thoroughly. Despite getting its start decades ago, fracking has only in recent years become as efficient and widely-applicable as it is now.

High oil prices from Saudi Arabia and the rest of OPEC played a large part in the fracking boom in the US in recent years. Now, other parts of the world, including the UK are opening their collective minds to the idea of fracking as a means of switching to natural gas & self-sufficiency.

Recently, the process was approved in the UK for the first time since 2011. This may seem like small news to some, but it’s a key indicator that the world as a whole has taken notice of the advantages that fracking can have on a country, its economy and its efficiency. 


Oil may be in a Slump, but the US can Stay Active

American oil isn’t what it used to be, for better or for worse. Recently, NPR’s Michel Martin sat down with famed oil businessman T. Boone Pickens, and picked his brain on the state of oil in the USA.

Saying “things aren’t good” oil-wise is a bit of an understatement. For the fifth time since 1980, oil prices have been reduced by over half. In the past, this was usually corrected by Saudi Arabia over supplying oil. Most recently, the price of oil has been in free fall— it plummeted from $100 to just over a quarter of that value. At $26 a barrel, the oil producing powers that be of Saudi Arabia and Russia have left the US on it’s own. In order to fix this, oil production has been drastically cut. In just a few years, the number of oil rigs was decreased from 1,609 to 342.

Pickens is convinced though, that oil will make a comeback. The problem though, is that he’s unsure of when that will be. But the industry doesn’t have to roll over completely and just wait it out. Pickens encourages an active exploration into clean energy sources. Wind and solar resources are abundant in America, he says, and the fact that so little of that energy output is used for transportation indicates a source of huge potential. This not only keeps the domestic economy humming, but will increasingly keep OPEC irrelevant. However, because we use so much oil— 94 million barrels— it’s hard for him to envision a world where that fossil fuel is suddenly pulled out from under us and wind and solar take the reigns.