Energy – especially availability and most especially foreign oil dependency – is a huge national concern. In the aggregate, energy is perhaps the greatest of all concerns related to American national security. If we look at foreign oil dependency alone, we see that the U.S. spends hundreds of billions of dollars each year on energy imports, with much of this energy imported from Middle Eastern nations.
Since there is no way to adequately determine – much less direct or demand – where that money is spent once it is funneled to these nations, we may be sure that some of it is ending up funding the very terrorists we send our young soldiers to fight.
Thankfully, it does not have to be this way anymore. America has its own massive reserves of clean, abundant, and relatively inexpensive energy. This energy will continue to create jobs in the U.S. and, most importantly, these domestic sources of energy have the power to dramatically reduce our dependency of foreign imports.
Topping the list of these domestic energy sources is natural gas. There are approximately 323 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves in the U.S. Those discoverable numbers are going up with the increasing technologies to both identify and produce these energy reserves. Specifically, the combination of the technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has provided a safe and reliable means of extracting these shale gas resources.
Through the use of hydraulic fracturing, energy producers have unlocked vast reserves of natural gas in the hard shale rock that were previously thought beyond the limits of economically feasible production. The process begins with horizontal drilling, essentially drilling vertically several thousand feet deep before making a 90-degree turn and drilling horizontally, enabling a single drilling pad site to reach far into shale-rock reserves – even in multiple directions from the same pad site. At that point, hydraulic fracturing of the hard shale occurs by pumping primarily a high-pressure mix of sand and water to release the oil and natural gas within the shale formation.
Some antagonists may argue this will contaminate the subterranean water. But these concerns do not – nor should not – wash, as usable-water sources are far shallower than the depths where shale rocks are found. Also, multiple layers of steel and cement casing protect water resources at layers where the drilling operations pass through groundwater resources.
During a recent interview, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell explained that “fears” surrounding hydraulic fracturing were largely baseless. “There is a lot of misinformation about fracking,” she said. “I think that localized efforts or statewide efforts in many cases don’t understand the science behind it and I think there needs to be more science.”
Indeed, and a report published by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions says, “because combusting natural gas yields fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coal or petroleum, the expanded use of natural gas offers significant opportunities to help address global climate change.”
But it is not just natural gas that we need. The U.S. has and needs to harness energy from all other available and cost-effective domestic sources including wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, and nuclear. If nothing else, we need a new substantive energy policy, achieving a broad consensus and educating the public from a sound scientific and mainstream position regarding natural gas production and usage.
Let’s rebuild America through common sense, mutual understanding and considered positions; not through arguing and legislating based on empty emotion and political one-upmanship. Let’s reverse our dangerous dependency on foreign energy sources, and in-so-doing reduce the unnecessary expenditure in blood and treasure.
– Thomas S. Mullikin is an environmental attorney, author, and professor of Marine Science at Coastal Carolina University. He has traveled to many of Earth’s most remote regions in his lifelong quest to better understand and help develop new energy solutions.