When President Obama took office for his first term, it was clear that a reduction of carbon emissions and reliance on fossil fuels was on his agenda. Global warming, climate change -- yadda, yadda, yadda. But the recent explosion in domestic crude oil and natural gas production have the Obama administration in a bit of a spot.
Unfortunately, the national discussion on energy policy generally reduces itself to discussions about preserving owls or controversial pipeline projects -- never mind the possibility of increasing refinery capacity. The U.S. is sitting on a fossil fuels goldmine and with a burdensome fiscal outlook the nation can hardly afford not to take advantage of all this energy boom has to offer.
Yes, fracking has been a flashpoint of debate regarding the environmental impacts, but no other method of resource extraction is so focused on leaving minimal environmental impact. Groups led by celebrities like Yoko Ono fear the ramifications of an environmental policy that would allow for fracking and are making efforts to have the practice banned.
Economically, the increase in oil and natural gas production has been very good for the state of North Dakota where the unemployment rate hovers right around 3%. Incomes are up in that state and with that comes increased consumer spending which gives capitalism a chance to do what it does best -- equip the American citizen with the tools to pursue happiness.
So what is a President to do with all of this forbidden fuel?
Drillers currently burn off as much natural gas as they collect because our national infrastructure is not prepared to handle the influx and our refining capacity lags. Apache Energy and Halliburton in conjunction with Caterpillar have made advances in fueling fracking pumps with infield natural gas making the process self- sustaining and clean burning.
The United States can have spotted owls, a supportive natural gas/crude infrastructure, safety in the shale and, get this, inexpensive automotive fuel in good supply -- all at the same time! But the national discussion must return to a logical perspective rather than subjugating itself to activism and environmental hyperbole.
The Obama administration must find ways to encourage growth here rather than stifling possibilities with overbearing regulations. Refinery capacity must be increased along with pipeline capacity. Regulations have some room to ease without risk of setting the continent on fire, but these require the White House to lean closer to common sense than environmental activism allows. Climate change scenarios and environmental rhetoric in the face of a wealth of fossil resources have the president between the shale and a hard place.
Photo credit: Barack Obama / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA