In the final days before the November election, the Republican (then minority) staff of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released a report outlining the domestic economic benefits of hydraulic fracturing, entitled Setting the Record Straight: Hydraulic Fracturing and America’s Energy Revolution. The report espouses the benefits of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, and asserts that, without the private sector’s significant investment in oil and natural gas development, the economy would still be in recession.
The benefits of hydraulic fracturing noted in the report include: 1) the creation of millions of jobs in both the natural gas industry and the manufacturing sector; 2) greater energy security; 3) significant reductions in the trade deficit; 4) lower domestic energy prices, both at home and at gas pumps; 5) reduced impact of Middle East volatility on domestic energy needs; 6) environmental benefits; and 7) reduced energy poverty impacts. The report notes that European countries that have adopted oppressive climate policies, similar to those being contemplated by the Obama Administration, have been substantially affected by harmful energy poverty impacts.
The report warns that the significant benefits of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling could be negated if the Administration moves forward with plans to constrain oil and gas development and use of hydraulic fracturing. It further alleged that the Administration and its environmental activist allies are misconstruing facts, using falsified science, and manufacturing risks in order to malign the technique, and, ultimately, to shift the nation’s energy portfolio away from domestic oil and natural gas resources. The report alleges that those maligning hydraulic fracturing are largely elite, wealthy individuals, for whom the price of energy is not an everyday burden, while those most affected by higher energy prices are largely middle and working-class individuals. The efforts to disparage hydraulic fracturing are heavily funded, the report alleges, by Middle Eastern regimes economically threatened by the domestic energy production unlocked by new drilling techniques.
While the report was released just prior to the election of a Republican majority in the Senate, it seems intended to carry a very timely post-election message. Even with a Republican majority in the Senate, which was largely expected, the President will continue to use existing statutory authority to further regulate the domestic oil and gas industry. President Obama does not expect, nor is he likely to receive, any additional statutory authority from Congress to regulate the oil and gas industry – but that has been the case throughout his administration. The Republican EPW report seems to recognize this President’s ability, and increased willingness, to act unilaterally and therefore preemptively warns the Administration of the potential economic implications of regulatory overreach.