Opening Bid on Fracking Regulations

Gasoline prices hit their highest Labor Day level ever in 2012.  In days before and after, the usual mix of factors leading to that retail peak.  The half-hearted embargo on Iranian oil was a factor.   Slow-moving hurricane Isaac led some consumers and transport operators to top up their tanks and a few refineries closed.  On the other hand, Isaac persuaded some drivers to stay home, cutting their petroleum consumption.  Kurdistan cut crude production by 80,000 barrels per day and BP sold $5 billion worth of its Gulf of Mexico deep water oil fields, vowing to redouble its efforts on other wells in the Gulf.  In the hurly-burley of petroleum markets, it was business as usual and the price level is one we’ve seen many times before over the past few years when the White House liked to blame it on “speculators.”  

Elsewhere in energy production, about half of U.S. electricity generation relies on coal.  Coal is the current bête noir of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and EPA recently set emission standards so tight as to prevent one-fourth of the planned coal-fueled generating facilities from being built.  In glacially slow court proceedings, the EPA may be overturned as it frequently has been.  But court action is really too late.   Compared with windmills and solar, coal is cheap electric generation, so a loss of low-cost infrastructure is now baked into the mix and it will steal from consumer pocketbooks for many decades after we’ve forgotten who Sheila Jackson was.  

Both sides of the political aisle are enjoying “fracking”– attributable low natural gas prices and the related spike in domestic crude production.  The low prices have helped economic activity and job creation from cratering.  Just as important, domestic oil production helps insulate us from Middle Eastern lunacy.

The EPA has proposed new regulations that require fracking drillers on federal lands to document which chemicals they are using and to carefully reclaim fracking fluids at the well-site.  These regulations are aimed at protecting groundwater from contamination – a worthy goal.  But environmental radicals are screaming for more stringent regulations that would increase costs, delay production, and treat drillers as guilty until proven innocent

The EPA’s aggressive and often unlawful attacks on the coal industry prove it is willing to pander to environmental radicals regardless of the cost to American workers, consumers, and security.  The proposed fracking information and recovery rules are not yet final regulations so there is plenty of time for the EPA to resume its hostility, perhaps right after the election. 

We must stop the EPA from striking again.   

Alan Daley is a retired businessman living in Florida and following public policy from a consumer’s perspective.

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