Fracking has led to an increase in domestic oil and gas production and a major reduction in dependence on foreign oil. Since 2005, U.S. oil production has increased from approximately 5 million to 8 million barrels per day. Combined with increased fuel efficiency and a slight decline in miles driven, increased domestic oil production has cut dependence on foreign oil in half. According to the International Energy Agency, the U.S. will become the world’s largest oil producer by 2015.
The oil and gas industry has contributed the lion’s share of job growth since 2008. According to the American Energy Institute, as of January 2013, jobs in the oil and gas sector had increased by 26.2%, while overall employment in the five-year period had declined by 2.3%. And unlike most jobs created in the Obama’s years, oil and gas jobs are high-paying. In 2013, annual earnings for workers in North Dakota’s oil fields averaged $112,000. Nationally, petroleum engineers averaged between $110,000 and $150,000 annually, with senior engineers and managers earning far more.
Fracking has lowered the cost of natural gas and helped to restrain price increases for oil as well. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, natural gas prices peaked at $13.42 per mBtu in October 2005. After fracking became common in the U.S., prices declined to a low of $1.99 per mBtu in April 2012, and they remain low today. Lower energy prices have reduced costs for homes, schools, businesses, and industries. At the same time, fracking has generated tens of billions of dollars of new revenue for states and municipalities.
In some locations where fracking has taken place, there has been a coincidental increase in the number of earthquakes. In other areas where widespread fracking has taken place, no quakes or tremors have been registered. As authorities stated at the Edmond meeting, there exists no conclusive evidence that fracking causes earthquakes. It should also be stressed that none of the quakes purportedly linked to fracking have seriously injured human beings or caused major property damage.
Even in those limited areas where earthquake activity has increased, it is impossible to know to what extent seismic activity has increased, since speculation about the connection with fracking has led to the deployment of a larger number of monitoring devices. According to one prominent geologist, a similar increase in seismic activity may have taken place in Oklahoma in the early 1950s, though an absence of recording devices at that time makes an exact comparison impossible. The record shows that Oklahoma has a long history of earthquake activity. While more quakes and tremors are now being recorded, it is certain that a larger number would have been detected in the past if an equal number of monitoring devices had been deployed.
It is alleged that injection wells, used to dispose of fracking liquids deep underground, may be triggering seismic activity. Most seismologists admit, however, that it is impossible at this time to prove that wastewater injection is the cause of increased earthquake activity. As scientists study the connection between wastewater disposal and seismic activity, it may be necessary to establish better standards or develop new methods of wastewater disposal. Energy companies are committed to following best practices in this regard.