By 2020, for the first time in 70 years, the US is predicted to become a net energy exporter. Most of this progress can be attributed to the combination of two technologies known as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. American consumers, oil and gas companies, and landowners have benefited significantly from the shift, while others say they have lost a great deal. CNBC explores if the U.S. should ban fracking.
The combination of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and horizontal drilling has revolutionized U.S. energy. The country has gone from heavily relying on foreign oil to producing enough for both its domestic consumption and international exports in less than two decades. The shale revolution has lowered prices, strengthened the U.S. geopolitically and made entrepreneurs and landowners very wealthy. By 2020, the US is predicted to become a net energy exporter.
However, the process of fracking is controversial. The potential harm to the environment and local communities is polarizing. Opponents of fracking argue water contamination and air pollution warrant stricter regulation and in some cases, a complete ban. Proponents on the other hand, claim that there is little to no evidence linking the pollution to gas drilling. A common rhetoric is that burning natural gas is more environmentally friendly than burning coal.
But there's been a number of reports where individuals have been harmed, often due to mishandling of wastewater or improper building of boreholes. Bryan Latkanich lives in Washington County, Pennsylvania and leased his property to Chevron. He claims health problems him and his son have experienced and the damage to his property are caused by the gas drilling on his property. But the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Health and Chevron have not found a link between the gas drilling and his claims. "Ultimately at this point I just want to get a buyout and move my son away from here and myself so we can try to get better and have a normal life," says Latkanich.
UPDATE: Chevron acquired the rights to the well on Bryan Latkanich’s property after it was installed.
Whether fracking should be allowed or not is widely discussed. France, Germany and Ireland have banned the practice entirely. So have states in America such as New York, Maryland and Vermont. Democratic hopefuls, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, have made statements that they intend to do change the regulations at the federal level. Other candidates like Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg are suggesting limits on production or stronger regulations. However, as the laws currently stands, the Federal government has limited regulatory tools to make any real changes. Most authority of oil and gas development is in the hands of state governments.