After Pushing Peak Oil Theory, Activists Want to Stop Fracking Because We Have “Too Much” Oil and Gas

A new report from anti-energy activist group Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) claims that the fossil fuel reserves under lease on federal lands are already so large, new federal leasing for energy production should be stopped.

The report, titled Over-Leased: How Production Horizons of Already Leased Federal Fossil Fuels Will Outlast Global Carbon Budgets, states that the “production horizons” – the number of years production can continue – for current federal leases extend for another 28 years for natural gas and 39 years for crude oil. Based off of these production horizons, the report claims that we will still be producing oil and natural gas on existing leases before the hypothesized “carbon budget” is met.

Of course, the facts contradict this belief that the production of oil and natural gas through hydraulic fracturing will increase CO2 emissions. The United States is the world’s largest oil and gas producer, but the only country in the world to significantly reduce emissions – thanks to fracking and natural gas use. In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) credits fracking with being an “an important reason for the reduction of GHG emissions in the United States.”

Interestingly, it wasn’t long ago that environmentalists and other critics of oil and natural gas development promulgated the myth of “Peak Oil”. Arguing that we reached the maximum level of oil output, these detractors claimed that oil production should be slowed or stopped to prevent economic disaster and complete resource depletion. Additionally, environmentalists claimed that because of peak oil, other forms of energy would soon be dominant, so why fight the inevitable.

Even just a few years ago, Earthworks and other activist groups briefed New York State officials – who, at the time, were considering legislation to ban natural gas development in the state – on the idea of peak oil in an effort to push an anti-fracking agenda. These groups stated that “shale gas and tight oil booms have been oversold”, and that “high productivity shale plays are not common”, and therefore fracking should be banned in the state, despite the economic benefits of such activity. As David Hughes, author of one of the reports touted by these groups, stated:

“Given the true potential limitation, and both financial and environmental costs of the energy panaceas being touted by industry and government proponents, it will simply not be possible to drill and frack our way to ‘energy independence.’”

We know however, that none of this is true. Not only is the United States the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, it now has greater reserves than both Russia and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, thanks to continued innovation in fracking technologies and techniques, decline rates for fracked wells – how quickly production drops from its peak production – have dramatically improved. Even the CBD report mentions that with U.S. oil and natural gas reserves being so large, there are plenty of leases waiting to be produced, stating:

“Importantly, every new lease would extend production horizons even further into the future.”

First, it was that oil and gas production should be stopped because we are running out – we aren’t. Then, it was that the new reserves from fracking are smaller than estimated so continued production wouldn’t make economic sense – they’re actually larger. And now the argument is that we should stop production because there is too much oil and natural gas. What will they come up with next?


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