In the 1960s, American entrepreneurs paved the way for a dramatic change to American energy production. They invented hydraulic fracturing (often referred to as fracking), a technique that involves drilling into the earth and injecting high-pressure liquid into subterranean rock to release the gas inside. The use of this technology led to the natural gas boom of the early 2000s, when fracking allowed us access to previously-untapped natural gas reserves. The subsequent dramatic decrease in the price of natural gas has decreased our reliance on coal-powered energy, while at the same time, enabled energy costs to remain relatively low for Americans.
Today, natural gas powers 38.4 percent of the country’s electricity. It has also proven to be a crucial part of America’s carbon reduction leadership. While natural gas still produces carbon emissions, it is the cleanest burning fuel of all hydrocarbon fuel sources and it has helped the U.S. to reduce overall emissions. It has also greatly improved our air quality — the United States is the only highly-populated country to meet the World Health Organization’s most stringent air quality standards.
Because of its ability to be stored and used on-demand, natural gas plays an important role in bridging the gap between the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources. When solar or wind power isn’t available due to the weather, we can rely on natural gas to provide affordable electricity and act as a complement to the more unreliable renewable energy sources.
The fracking boom also helped to improve our national security. Thanks to the reduced gas prices and abundance of gas reserves that were now accessible, in 2019, the U.S. was a net exporter of oil for the first time since 1952. This meant we no longer needed to rely on other countries for our energy sources.
Unfortunately, President Biden is quickly reversing this progress in his campaign to enact aggressive climate policies. While technically promising to not ban fracking, Biden is clearly not a friend to the industry and has placed moratoriums (only lifted months later) on oil and gas leases on federal lands. On his first day in office, Biden cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would have operated with “net-zero emissions throughout its lifecycle.” And in the face of rising gas prices at home, Biden was left pleading to OPEC+, which includes countries like Russia, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, to boost their oil production, a request that they denied, to our further embarrassment.
Natural gas has provided Americans with affordable energy while creating millions of jobs and increasing our national energy security. It has led to vastly improved air quality throughout the country and enabled us to be a world leader in reducing carbon emissions. Policymakers and President Biden must recognize the vital role that natural gas played, and will continue to play in our nation’s clean energy future.