Former USGS Official: Fracking Necessary to Sustain American Energy Renaissance

During this week’s Cato Institute Capitol Hill briefing on sustaining the American energy renaissance, Petroleum Geologist Ned Mamula provided insight into how recent advances in fracking and drilling technology have driven the steady increase in domestic energy production—and how the federal government is threatening to stall that trend.

Mamula, who has previously worked for the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Minerals Management Service, and the Central Intelligence Agency, said fracking technology is moving at a pace that federal regulators can’t keep up with, but the states certainly can:

“A federal blanket fracking law or reg[ulation] doesn’t work. Fracking is different in different parts of the country…every basin is unique. Fracking in each basin has to be done according to the…geologic conditions in that basin. State governments are way, way, way ahead. Trust me on this. They know how to do the environment, operations, royalty rental collection; they are perfectly capable, thank-you-very much. Each state has its own fracking. New York? Missing the boat. They’re missing hundreds of millions of dollars because they put a ban on it.”

Mamula emphasized the threat posed by impeding legislation to the success of the American energy industry’s resurgence. The federal government’s encroaching regulations on the vast, widespread shale throughout the United States have generated concerns surrounding the sustainability of the oil and gas development bonanza. “Whether we [achieve energy independence] is really up to the people who we elect,” he said.

Among the ways in which America’s energy renaissance can be sustained, Mamula cited the importance of developing cutting-edge technologies to assist in the exploration and production of shale gas. Recent tech-driven trends in the fracking industry, noted Mamula, include:

“A steady increase in the number of successful wells. You have oil and gas discoveries that are very, very predictable…and…the art is gone. This is all brute science. There is no art. We know exactly where we are in space and time, we know what’s there—you just pull it up. And the discovery rate went from 5% to 10% thirty years ago, which isn’t that long, to today—it’s 60%-70%. And this is unclassified…These are bare-bones numbers. And they’re only going to get better.”

“Can you imagine the money generated, the lives saved, the progress made, by the energy discovered by these techniques?” said Mamula on the strides made by the oil and gas industry towards safety and success. “You can’t deny that, no matter what side of the argument you’re on.”

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