The geopolitics of fracking
While recent debates about hydraulic fracturing have raged over potential environmental repercussions like earthquakes, gas leaks and water contamination in the U.S., the significant geopolitical effects of this huge shift in fuel production continue to play out.
Many have credited the fracking boom, which peaked in the last few years, with a new American independence. The thinking goes that with domestic production soaring, the U.S. is less dependent on other nations for energy supply and so less vulnerable to the demands and strife of oil-supplying countries.
For one, fracking has had an indirect hand in foreign policy. The Obama administration’s ability to impose sanctions on Iran in 2010 and 2011 can be linked back to the shale boom, according to Sam Ori, executive director at University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute. Ori spent several years at a Washington-based think tank focused on energy policy and national security and worked at the State Department prior to that.
“A big part of the reason why they [the Bush administration] didn’t ultimately impose really harsh sanctions on the oil industry is because they were concerned about what that would do to the oil market, the oil price and the global economy,” Ori said in an interview.
There was concern that the global market wouldn’t be able to compensate fast enough if Iranian fuel was taken off the market at that time.
“From an oil market standpoint, the shale boom really provided the flexibility to do that,” Ori explained.
Still, there is a problem with the energy independence argument. Fracking has boosted the rate at which oil and natural gas can be extracted from wells, but despite now being one of the world’s top exporters, the U.S. still imports huge amounts of oil and petroleum products...