Republican critics and some in the energy industry have often cast President Obama as hostile to fossil fuels, but the White House on Monday issued a strong endorsement of the domestic oil and gas boom and the controversial drilling technique that has made it possible.
During a press briefing at the White House, top Obama adviser John Podesta said massive increases in U.S. oil and gas extraction — made possible by fracking — are helping to reduce carbon emissions and have had clear economic benefits.
Fracking and natural-gas production is a “bridge, if you will, from a world in which there are still needs for fossil fuels to power our economy to a world in which we can get more from zero-carbon sources of energy,” Mr. Podesta said. “We think it’s a practical and viable way to reduce emissions in the short run.”
Mr. Podesta pointed out that the U.S. is now the world’s largest producer of natural gas, thanks to the growing use of fracking and the discovery of vast gas deposits in spots such as the Marcellus Shale.
March also marked the sixth straight month in which the U.S. produced more oil than it imported.
The boom also has had positive economic benefits. From 2010 to 2013, employment within the oil-and-gas extraction sector increased by 133,000 jobs, according to administration figures.
But Republicans and others have charged that the administration has done little to contribute to those gains and is unfairly taking credit for them. The vast majority of the oil-and-gas production increases, for example, has taken place on state and private lands, not federal property over which the administration has direct control.
The administration’s endorsement of fracking comes a day before the White House releases its third “climate assessment,” Mr. Podesta said, which will contain massive data on climate change and its causes and consequences.