Trump’s policies aren’t actually fueling a fracking boom

Current drilling remains a shadow of the frenzy that occurred under Obama.

 

This article was originally published on The River of Lost Souls and is republished here with permission. 

When he was elected, President Donald Trump promised that he’d achieve American energy dominance by rolling back regulations on oil and gas extraction, thereby bringing jobs and prosperity back to the then-busted energy communities of the West.

Now, two years into his tenure, it appears superficially as if he’s delivered on his promises. A flurry of environmental protections have been rescinded successfully, though some attempts have been stymied by the courts. U.S. crude oil production is higher than it’s ever been. And national media outlets have suggested that Trump’s rollbacks have rescued the energy economy from Obama’s stifling regulations: “Driven by Trump Policy Changes,” a recent New York Times Magazine header reads, “Fracking Booms on Public Lands.”

But a deeper look at the statistics reveal that while drilling has ticked back up since 2016, the current oil and gas “boom” remains a mere shadow of the frenzy that occurred under Obama’s reputedly burdensome policies, and the recent comeback has very little to do with Trump’s rollbacks. It’s a matter of correlation rather than causation.

Jonathan Thompson

Something that often gets lost amongst the thicket of rhetoric around energy independence and dominance, fracking booms and environmental policy, is the fact that oil and gas, like all marketable commodities, generally follow laws of supply and demand. As demand rises relative to supply, so do prices. And as prices increase, producers drill more wells, which is the most expensive, labor-intensive, and arguably the most disruptive and destructive phase of hydrocarbon production.

An oil and gas boom is really a surge in drilling, not production (though the former ultimately leads to the latter). If prices crash, drilling slows, jobs are lost, the oil patch quiets a bit but production continues from existing wells. This is why the rig count — not production figures, amount of leased acreage or even the number drilling permits issued — is typically considered the best metric for gauging the health of the industry, and the harm it’s doing. Rig counts faithfully follow the price of oil and gas — if prices go up, the rig count will too, without fail.

High Country News Classifieds
  • SECLUDED COLORADO HIDEAWAY
    This passive solar home sits on 2 lots and offers an abundance of privacy and views while being only 15 minutes to downtown Buena Vista....
  • COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR
    Introduction: Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with offices located in Kanab and Escalante, Utah. We are committed to the conservation...
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    For more information visit www. wyofile.com/careers/
  • THRIVING LOCAL HEALTH FOOD STORE FOR SALE
    Turn-key business opportunity. Successful well established business with room to grow. Excellent highway visibility.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    For more information, visit www.wyofile.com/careers/
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a high-impact, nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 27-year legacy using...
  • PROJECT MANAGER
    Position Summary Join our Team at the New Mexico Land Conservancy! We're seeking a Project Manager who will work to protect land and water across...
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT AND MARKETING
    High Country News seeks a Director of Product and Marketing to join our senior team during an exciting chapter of innovation and growth. This individual...
  • WILDLIFE HAVEN
    Beautiful acreage with Teton Creek flowing through it. Springs and ponds, lots of trees, moose and deer. Property has barn. Easy access. approx. 33 acres.
  • ARIZONA CONSERVATION CORPS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Arizona Conservation Corps is seeking a Program Director in Flagstaff or Tucson
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...