EDITORIAL: Fracturing Obama’s oil spin

It’s a crude attempt to take credit for the boom

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With the debris of his health care scheme falling like autumn leaves, President Obama is looking for news, any news, to suggest that his White House is doing something, anything, right. He landed on the most unlikely candidate last week. He’s taking credit for the surge in the production of oil, which exceeded imports for the first time in 18 years.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration announced Wednesday that daily U.S. crude-oil production averaged 7.7 million barrels in October, with net imports falling to the lowest level since 1991. American production is just getting ramped up, and the agency forecasts daily production levels reaching 8.5 million barrels next year.

Success at the oil well pays dividends at the gasoline pump. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline nationwide, $3.63 last year, is projected to come in at $3.50 this year and fall to $3.39 in 2014. Right now, fuel is averaging $3.21 a gallon in certain places, the most inexpensive in nearly three years, with relief just in time for the holiday season, when every nickel counts.

Dan Utech, the global-warming czar at the White House, put the credit where credit is definitely not due. “The actions that President Obama and his administration have taken to reduce our reliance on foreign oil play a significant role in this story,” he said proudly. Hardly. No matter how deep the White House drills in search of evidence to substantiate this claim, the White House comes up with only a dry hole.

Mr. Obama has never tried to hide his contempt for oil and natural gas. His administration has put in place as many coils of red tape as it could find to hinder, not encourage, the production of domestic oil and natural gas. The boom in U.S. oil and gas production does not disturb the flora and fauna on government land. “All of the increase from fiscal 2007 to fiscal 2012 took place on non-federal lands, and the federal share of total U.S. crude oil production fell by about 7 percentage points,” the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service disclosed in March. Under Mr. Obama, obtaining federal approval for a drilling permit has become difficult and slow. Between 2006 and 2011, the average time required to obtain a permit for drilling rose from 218 days to 307 days. By comparison, North Dakota, which is now the country’s No. 2 oil-producing state, usually grants a state permit within 10 days.

The key to the boom in domestic oil production is the drilling process known as fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, in which liquids, usually a mixture of water, sand and chemicals are forced into rock formations at such tremendous pressure that the rock breaks apart with tiny fractures, and oil and gas flow to the well. State and private landholders in the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana, for example, use fracking to tap shale-oil reserves that were previously too expensive to exploit. The new production — a million barrels a day in Bakken alone — has pulled North Dakota out of the economic backwater. In less than a decade, the state’s gross domestic product per capita went from below-average performance to outperforming the national average by 29 percent.

The United States is on track to surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the No. 1 oil and gas producer by 2015. By 2035, the nation will come close to self-sufficiency.

Mr. Obama deserves no thanks for this. He has only been interested in promoting the unaffordable technologies of yesteryear, such as windmills and solar panels. But that’s so 19th century.

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