MoveOn Announces Effort to Slow Fracking Boom

Fracking propelling country toward domestically produced energy abundance

Hydraulic Fracking
January 10, 2014

Leading left-wing advocacy group announced a new effort on Thursday to oppose innovations that are propelling the country towards a new abundance of domestically produced energy.

MoveOn bemoaned in an email to supporters the "troubling trend" of increased energy production, which is reducing the U.S. trade deficit, creating well-paying jobs, stabilizing global energy prices, and undermining the economic engine behind some of the world’s most repressive regimes.

MoveOn announced the creation of a new effort called "#FrackingFighter," which "seeks to slow down the fracking boom that is anticipated to occur across the United States in 2014 and beyond."

The increased use of hydraulic fracturing, an innovative oil and gas technique, has sent U.S. energy production skyrocketing, MoveOn said. It vowed to slow or reverse that trend.

Many environmentalist groups say they want government to adequately regulate the practice. MoveOn took a more radical approach, pushing activists to work "to ban fracking in their local communities."

The effort was unveiled the same day that the Energy Information Administration (EIA) released data showing that increased U.S. production is keeping global oil prices stable, reducing the U.S. trade deficit, and eating away at the global market share of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting States (OPEC).

MoveOn is aware of the trend, but says it is a negative – or "troubling" – one.

"Natural gas production in the United States, led by fracking, is predicted to increase by 56 percent over the next 26 years—propelling the country ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil and gas producer," the group’s email said.

Energy industry experts see hydraulic fracturing and the energy production boom it has unleashed as an economic positive for the nation.

"American shale gas is changing the balance of competitiveness in the world economy, giving the U.S. an unanticipated advantage," according to Daniel Yergin, author of the Pulitzer-winning book The Prize: the Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power.

"Indeed, inexpensive natural gas is fueling a U.S. manufacturing renaissance, as companies build new plants and expand existing facilities," Yergin wrote in a Wednesday column.

EIA data on the oil and gas sector shows that it is currently one of the few bright spots in the American economy.

Employment in the oil and gas sector increased by 40 percent from 2007 through 2012 EIA noted in a recent report, compared to a mere 1 percent increase in the labor market generally.

Oil and gas industry employees make an average of $121,400 per year, according to a recent survey, significantly more than the average American worker. The industry's growth in wages has "helped fuel the biggest jump in U.S. wages in more than five years," CNN reported in 2012.

The shale boom has also reduced energy prices in areas of the country that sit near large shale formations or have access to networks of oil and gas pipelines.

Pennsylvania, which has embraced hydraulic fracturing, is by far the fastest-growing natural gas producing state in the country. Its gas prices, meanwhile, are significantly lower than neighboring New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D.) has blocked the practice.

MoveOn’s efforts to scuttle technologies that have enabled these trends could put the group at odds with some of the nation’s labor unions, which have traditionally been MoveOn allies.

A host of labor unions backed a group founded in 2011 called Clean Growth Now that advocated for hydraulic fracturing and criticized Cuomo for his inaction on regulations that, at present, prohibit the practice in the state.

Union members protested the New York fracking moratorium, which they said was preventing job growth in a promising industry.

The fracking boom also has macroeconomic and even geopolitical implications, experts say.

"The geopolitical impact is already evident," Yergin wrote. "For example, Iran is now seriously at the table in nuclear negotiations, which might well not have happened were it not for tight oil."

Tom Donilon, the Obama White House’s former national security adviser, bolstered that assessment in a recent speech at the Aspen Institute.

"I’m not so sure that we could’ve pulled off the sanctions that we pulled off in Iran absent the increased production in energy," Donilon said. "Our ability to produce and increase our production by over a million barrels per day was pretty critical."

Some oil-rich Middle Eastern nations have publicly voiced concern about increased U.S. oil production, saying it may undermine their own oil-fueled economies.

New shale oil discoveries, Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal recently told the Toronto Globe and Mail "are threats to any oil-producing country in the world."

Yergin predicts that Middle Eastern OPEC nations "will continue to be an arena of great geopolitical importance, and its oil will be essential to the functioning of the global economy."

"Overall, however, the shale-energy revolution does provide a new source of resilience for the U.S. and enhances America’s position in the world," he wrote. "The emergence of shale gas and tight oil in the U.S. demonstrates, once again, how innovation can change the balance of global economic and political power.

MoveOn considers that a "troubling trend," and is determined to put a stop to the innovations behind it.