Fracking is a dirty word as far as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is concerned, but those in the oil-and-gas industry warn that life without hydraulic fracturing would be far grubbier.
The American Petroleum Institute drilled down this week on rising Democratic calls to ban fracking on private and public lands, releasing a study Thursday warning that such proposals would have “dire consequences,” including plunging the nation into a recession.
The economic analysis found that a ban on hydraulic fracturing would kill 7.5 million jobs by 2022; slash gross domestic product by $7.1 trillion by 2030, reduce household incomes by $5,400 annually and increase consumer energy bills by $600 a year.
“American families should be shocked to hear proposals from candidates for high office that would ban this transformative technology, which would erase a generation of American progress and return us to the days of heavy reliance on foreign energy,” said API president and CEO Mike Sommers.
He didn’t use the word “Democrat,” although the only politicians calling for a fracking ban hail from the left side of the aisle, led by presidential primary hopefuls Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
The API study capped a week that saw industry officials fuel a pro-fracking offensive to counter the left’s mounting campaign against the 60-year-old extraction technology that spurred the shale revolution and is used in 95% of new U.S. wells.
In addition to the study, the API released digital ads touting the benefits of fracking. Meanwhile, the Western Energy Alliance took out a full-page ad Monday in The New York Times signed by 54 industry executives saying it would be “criminal not to produce oil and natural gas.”
“Sen. Sanders calls us criminal and Vice President [Joseph R.] Biden says he would put us in jail, but it would be criminal not to produce the life-sustaining energy that enables a healthy, safe and modern lifestyle,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of Western Energy Alliance.
The pushback comes as Democrats raise the temperature on their anti-fracking rhetoric as they seek to rally voters to the climate-change cause leading up to the Nov. 3 election.
Two weeks ago, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez introduced the Fracking Ban Act in House, the companion to the Senate bill sponsored by Mr. Sanders, legislation that would revoke current leases on fracked wells within 2,500 of “inhabited structures” such as schools and homes.
“Fracking is destroying our land and our water,” she said in a Feb. 12 tweet. “It is wreaking havoc on our communities’ health. We must do our job to protect our future from the harms caused by the fracking industry.”
Meanwhile, four Democratic presidential primary contenders — Mr. Sanders, Ms. Warren, Tulsi Gabbard and Tom Steyer — have said they would support or implement a fracking ban, while the rest of the field backs a moratorium on public lands.
Last year, Ms. Warren declared she would “ban fracking everywhere” on her first day in the White House with an executive order that would place a moratorium on fossil-fuel leases offshore and on federal lands.
“Fracking is a danger to our water supply. It’s a danger to the air we breathe, it has resulted in more earthquakes, and it’s highly explosive,” said Mr. Sanders in a Jan. 31 statement. “To top it all off, it’s contributing to climate change. If we are serious about clean air and drinking water, if we are serious about combating climate change, the only safe and sane way to move forward is to ban fracking nationwide.”
Swing states would be hardest hit
Industry officials dispute the pollution claim, arguing that multiple studies have confirmed fracking’s safety, and counter that the technology has done more to combat rising atmospheric carbon dioxide than Al Gore and Greta Thunberg combined.
The United States leads the world in reducing greenhouse gases — U.S. emissions dropped by 2.9% in 2019 — thanks primarily to the replacement of coal-fired power plants with those fueled by natural gas, which has become both more abundant and cheaper as a result of hydraulic fracturing.
“If I were to tell you of a technology that would lower our trade deficit, lower costs for American consumers, have key environmental benefits, and improve our national security, most politicians would embrace that technology,” said Mr. Sommers on a press call. “Unfortunately, on the campaign trail today, we’re hearing a lot of presidential candidates doing exactly opposite.”
The API economic analysis conducted by the economic-modeling firm OnLocation found that farmers would be especially hard-hit by a fracking ban, suffering a 43% reduction in income as a result of higher energy costs.
After recently becoming for the first time a net exporter of oil and petroleum products, the United States would be forced to revert to foreign sources, importing more than 40% of its supplies by 2030.
“You can’t eliminate the very technology that has enabled the American energy revolution without damaging economic consequences,” said Lessly Goudarzi, founder and CEO of OnLocation. “As our analysis shows, assuming a full ban on fracking would threaten a U.S. recession and force American consumers to rely more on foreign energy rather than energy produced here in the U.S.”
The five states that would suffer the most severe job losses would be Texas (1,103,000), California (765,000), Florida (711,000), Pennsylvania (551,000) and Ohio (500,000), for a total of 3.6 million job losses in 2022.
“One of the reasons why we wanted to demonstrate what the economic consequences are with this study is to help educate the American people what it actually means not just one someone else’s job, but their job,” said Mr. Sommers. “The effects of a fracking ban wouldn’t just affect energy workers, it would affect those that rely on energy. That’s everyone.”