“The oil and natural gas we rely on for 75 percent of our energy are running out,” warned the President in a televised speech on energy policy. And because we are running out, “we must prepare quickly” for a transition “to strict conservation and to the use of coal and permanent renewable energy sources, like solar power.”
At first glance the concepts of horizontal drilling for oil and natural gas and hydraulic fracturing, a method of extracting oil and gas from tight shale formations, seem physically impossible. But tens of thousands of gas wells already using this revolutionary technology prove otherwise. Hydraulic fracturing of underground wells is not a new idea, having been used for about a century to increase flow in water wells. When formations are “tight” or clogged, reversing the flow temporarily with high pressure from inside the well often allows more flow. But there, the similarity with today’s technology ends.
The crisis at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant in the aftermath of the magnitude 9 earthquake on March 11 has had aftershocks of its own around the globe. Predictably, whenever there is an incident involving a nuclear power plant, politicians will scramble to call for new safety measures, new inspections, and call into question the entire role of nuclear power in meeting the energy needs of a burgeoning global population. Such posturing will undoubtedly delay efforts to meet power consumption needs throughout the developed world, but for the Germans, the fallout from Fukushima will now include the nation’s abandonment of nuclear power altogether.
John Felmy is chief economist of the American Petroleum Institute (API), responsible for overseeing the organization’s economic, statistical, and policy analysis. He has over 25 years’ experience in energy, economic, and environmental analysis. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Maryland. John is a member of several professional associations, including the American Economics Association and the International Association for Energy Economics. He was interviewed at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C., by William F. Jasper, senior editor of The New American.
Item: A letter from President Obama to congressional leaders, dated April 26 and posted on the White House website, urged that they “take immediate action to eliminate unwarranted tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, and to use those dollars to invest in clean energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” Obama followed up by writing that he hoped “we can all agree that, instead of continuing to subsidize yesterday’s energy sources, we need to invest in tomorrow’s.”