Making Resolutions

Happy New Years from CLEAN Resources! Hopefully you have enjoyed a relaxing holiday season with friends and loved ones.

As 2015 begins, Americans are engaged in the annual ritual of making resolutions for the new year. Might we suggest including an energy related resolution on your list?

In recent years, the debate over our energy future in Texas, and beyond, has been dominated by extreme voices with ideological goals that are not related to the facts and science of energy policy matters. Therefore, the public discussion would improve if everyone agreed to approach energy issues in 2015 with an open mind and devotion to getting the facts from credible sources.

An op-ed in The Bryan-College Station Eagle by Texas A&M professor Dan Hill offers some useful perspective for consuming news on shale energy topics. Professor Hill, who serves as the Noble Chair of the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M University, urges the public "to be savvy consumers of information and to keep an eye out for claims masquerading as ‘science,' which have been widely discredited by scientists and experts."

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A Time for Perspective and Appreciation

Supporters of American energy can be consumed by the issues of the day or week, and we often lose sight of the truly amazing aspects of the American shale energy revolution. The holiday season is the perfect time to slow down and take a broader look at exactly why the American shale energy revolution has been so important to our nation.

An article by Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens ("The Marvel of American Resilience") frames this conversation in an interesting way. Stephens asks readers to "imagine an economic historian in the year 2050 talking to her students about the most consequential innovations of the early 21st century—the Model Ts and Wright flyers and Penicillins of our time. What would make her list?"

Stephens thinks that the innovations that led to the shale energy revolution would be certain to make the list along with social media, mobile information technology, and newly discovered medical innovations for treating cancer and other diseases that still claim too many lives. "Surely fracking—shorthand for the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing that is making the U.S. the world’s leading oil and gas producer—would be noted."

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Empire Statement

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this week that his administration would prohibit “hydraulic fracturing in New York State because of concerns over health risks, ending years of debate over a method of extracting natural gas.” This move was hailed by anti-shale energy activists, but many analysts observed that it was a nakedly political move that had little to do with science or data.

Katie Brown of Energy In Depth was among the commentators pointing out the inaccuracy of the claim “that there isn’t enough scientific evidence to ensure the process (of hydraulic fracturing) is safe.” In fact, according to Brown, many of the studies cited by the New York Department of Health as influencing their decision have “been either discredited or shown to have exceedingly faulty methodologies.” Also, “when discussing just about every one of these dubious studies, DOH admits that they actually didn’t have any evidence to link hydraulic fracturing to health impacts.” Michael Lynch of Forbes observed that the move gives the impression that “regulation (in New York) is a popularity contest, not science driven.”

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CBO Takes Note of Shale Stimulus

The Congressional Budget Office, which conducts nonpartisan analysis for Congress, released a report this week detailing the impact of the shale energy boom on the American economy.

The report ("The Economic and Budgetary Effects of Producing Oil and Natural Gas From Shale") explains that "the development of shale resources", while "virtually nonexistent a decade ago…has boomed in the United States." Shale resources are now responsible for approximately "3.5 million barrels of tight oil per day and about 9.5 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of shale gas per year."

According to the CBO, the impact of this increased production on the American economy is monumental. "On net, CBO estimates that real (inflation-adjusted) GDP will be about two-thirds of 1 percent higher in 2020 and about 1 percent higher in 2040 than it would have been without the development of shale resources."

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War on Science?

Columnist Margaret Wente of The Globe and Mail authored a great opinion piece this week that compares ongoing efforts to obstruct shale energy production with other trendy causes that have emerged in North America and Europe based on dubious pseudoscience.

Wente notes that "the war on fracking is also entirely ideological" and compares it to the resistance to vaccinations and modern agricultural techniques, such as genetically modified foods. She acknowledges that shale energy, like "any new technology will have challenges", but she notes that "the National Academy of Sciences, MIT, and other bodies with no axes to grind say that fracking is safe. Environmentalists should love it, because natural gas emits far less carbon than oil. Instead, they want to ban it."

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Giving Thanks for Shale Energy

While there is much to be thankful for as Americans and Texans, we are particularly thankful for the American energy innovators who started right here in the Barnett Shale. These men and women developed, and continue to improve, the groundbreaking innovations such as the "combination of horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and information technology" that have "unlocked" America’s shale resources.

The emergence of these new energy sources have upended conventional wisdom about the future of American energy and enhanced our energy security. "The shale boom has added at least $300 billion annually to the U.S. economy over the past half-dozen years, along with nearly two million jobs. Without this addition to the GDP, America's economy would have stalled, or been in recession, for nearly every year since 2008." Also, these gains are strengthening our position in the world by reducing our dependence on hostile nations for our energy supply.

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Hit 'em Where it Hurts

An example of the power of the American shale energy boom was seen this week in a report that "booming" American energy produced via hydraulic fracturing is having more of an impact on Vladimir Putin's regime than sanctions.

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Energy Security Report Card

The American shale revolution has ushered in a "new age of abundant and cheap energy supplies" that "is redrawing the world's geopolitical landscape, weakening and potentially threatening the legitimacy of some governments while enhancing the power of others."

Thankfully, the strategic position of the United States has been boosted by the enhanced energy security provided by our shale energy resources. According to Robert Hormats, a former undersecretary at the State Department, the United States "is emerging as a big winner" in this new energy era as we are now "less vulnerable to supply disruptions overseas." Enhanced energy security "also provides added leverage in international negotiations, whether with Iran over its nuclear program or with Russia over its intentions in Ukraine."

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Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Proven Safe (Again)

A key component of shale energy production made news this week as a group of University of Colorado-Boulder scientists released their findings about the safety of hydraulic fracturing fluid ingredients.

These researchers were studying the fluid that is used to create fissures in shale rock, which are then propped open by sand to allow oil and gas to flow to the surface. This decades old procedure has been safely used more than a million times in the United States. Despite the common usage of this technique, many people do not know that hydraulic fracturing fluid is typically composed of over 99.5% water and sand. The remaining half of a percent includes various components that are added to ensure safe and efficient energy production. 

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Bringing It Home

The economic statistics related to the American shale revolution are so staggering that the full impact can be lost in the steady stream of facts and figures released by government agencies and private research organizations. 

For example, the U.S. Energy Information Administration this week released a report finding that "Texas added more than 19,000 new private sector jobs in oil and natural gas production in 2013, almost six times the number added in New Mexico, the next highest state for oil and natural gas production jobs added last year." These figures only include "on-the-ground production jobs, and do not reflect the many jobs at oil and natural gas corporate headquarters based in Texas."

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