Fracking for Innovation

While a politically sensitive topic, few can argue that hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” has moved the United States significantly toward energy independence. Many of us can remember sitting in long lines at the gas pump in the 1970s during the energy crisis and claims that the world’s oil and gas supply would quickly dwindle in the coming decades. So, what happened?

Well, it’s not that we all of a sudden discovered new deposits. A big piece of the story was developing new technologies like horizontal drilling and means to get to deposits that we already knew existed. New approaches like fracking unlocked huge amounts of natural gas and oil that otherwise would have stayed locked up or would not have been economically feasible to tap into.  However, new technologies and approaches used to extract and harness these energy resources themselves are not in and of themselves sufficient. Policies and pathways also had to be created to align and incentivize investment and to create economies of scale. To be sure, fracking required a lot of risk at many levels and certainly is not free of potential complications and controversy. Some states embraced fracking, which transformed their economies, while others did not. An argument can be made, however, that all enjoyed the benefits of lower prices of gas and oil.

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