U.S. Shale is Undermining Russia’s Gas Monopoly

The Associated Press has a must-read story from this weekend about how hydraulic fracturing is “shaking up world energy markets from Washington to Moscow to Beijing.” The premise is one we’ve covered here at EID before, but it simply cannot be overstated: developing natural gas from shale is not only an unquestionable economic and environmental winner for the United States, but also re-centering global energy markets away from Russia and the Middle East and toward the United States and North America.

From the AP:

The Kremlin is watching, European nations are rebelling, and some suspect Moscow is secretly bankrolling a campaign to derail the West’s strategic plans.

It’s not some Cold War movie; it’s about the U.S. boom in natural gas drilling, and the political implications are enormous.

Like falling dominoes, the drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is shaking up world energy markets from Washington to Moscow to Beijing. Some predict what was once unthinkable: that the U.S. won’t need to import natural gas in the near future, and that Russia could be the big loser.

“This is where everything is being turned on its head,” said Fiona Hill, an expert on Russia at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington. “Their days of dominating the European gas markets are gone.”

And as we’ve mentioned before, the growth of shale development in the United States has been anything but a partisan issue:

The U.S. presidential campaigns have already addressed the strategic potential.

A campaign position paper for Republican Mitt Romney said he “will pursue policies that work to decrease the reliance of European nations on Russian sources of energy.”

In early September, President Barack Obama said the U.S. could “develop a hundred-year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet,” which would “cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone.”

The story also includes some he-said-she-said allegations about the Russians possibly funding environmental efforts in Europe to ban or restrict hydraulic fracturing. It’s a plausible theory, given how continued shale development means more competition for Russian gas giant Gazprom, and the fact that “Gazprom owns media companies throughout Russia and Europe that have run stories examining the environmental risks of [hydraulic fracturing].” But it’s also a theory for which little tangible proof currently exists.

In any event, the AP notes: “Regulators contend that overall, water and air pollution problems are rare,” something most of us interested in the facts already knew (see this list of statements from regulators for more proof). And it was none other than Lisa Jackson, current Administrator of the U.S. EPA, who recently said: “In no case have we made a definitive determination that [hydraulic fracturing] has caused chemicals to enter groundwater.”

In sum, hydraulic fracturing is a safe and tightly regulated process that is creating jobs and undermining Russia’s control over European energy markets, all while helping to deliver a clean and affordable source of energy to American consumers.

Those facts make Alec Baldwin and Josh Fox look even sillier, which most of us didn’t think was possible.

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