God bless Texas. As Americans continue to face near-record high gas prices, recent interest in vast oil shale deposits in the Lone Star State could be a boon to domestic production and significantly lessen our dependence on foreign oil. Of course, this assumes that bureaucrats stay out of the way; one Texas-size assumption
According to a story published by The New York Times late last month, the area known as Eagle Ford in South Texas and other deposits around the state, could generate as many as 420,000 barrels per day by 2015. This represents possibly two or three times as much oil as in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska – the largest oil field in the nation – and could boost domestic production by as much as 25 percent. One oil expert interviewed by the Times noted this would be “like adding another Venezuela or Kuwait by 2020, except these tight oil fields are in the United States.”
Certainly, the hope of extracting the estimated three billion barrels of this valuable natural resource that rest in the South Texas soil has renewed oil industry’s collective interest in the area that could bring two million jobs. Because of this, local residents envision a boom in economic development thanks to the billions being invested in the area by more than two dozen oil companies.
Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider recently took notice of an underreported story by financial firm Morgan Stanley, noting that “technological innovation is now allowing for oil extraction from previously un-economical shale deposits” and leading to a “renaissance” for domestic oil production.
Despite the fact that huge benefits will result from the recovery of oil shale at Eagle Ford in terms of creating jobs, producing more oil at home, and possibly stabilizing the petroleum market, environmentalists already are wringing their collective hands and fretting over environmental damage they see lurking behind every effort to extract “liquid gold” from the ground. Their nightmare scenario is based on the process used to access the oil, called hydraulic fracturing, but commonly known as “fracking.”
Because fracking requires significant quantities of water and small amounts of chemicals, the environmental chicken littles envision a future in which residents of drought-prone Texas will suffer water shortages and be exposed to harmful pollutants.
The American Petroleum Institute notes correctly that already there are extensive regulations in place at nearly all levels of government to deal with potential risks associated with this expensive method of oil and gas recovery. Additional or expanded regulation could quickly slow production and harm local economies.
Throwing even more cold water on the nascent Texas shale oil boom is a small local reptile, the sand dune lizard, which may be placed on the endangered species list later this year. Placement of this lizard on the list could seriously hamper drilling in Texas, perhaps even more than the porcupine caribou has prevented exploration in a small section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson told ABC News this lizard, though small in size, might as well be “Godzilla” because of the threat it represents to the oil industry in his state. How much of a threat? Oil industry representatives say that 500 million barrels of oil would effectively be taken off the market.
For years, left-wing politicians, bureaucrats, and environmentalists have proudly parked themselves in the path of domestic oil exploration, despite the fact that harmful incidents associated with oil recovery and drilling are rare. They also claim new drilling would not bring down oil prices or that lower prices would be a decade or more away.
Federal nanny-staters, perennially more concerned about lizards and minnows than humans, and deeply worried about everything from fireworks displays to light bulbs, are gearing up to stop the Eagle Ford oil boom before it gets out of first gear. For America’s sake, let’s hope they fail.