NEW YORK—The revolution has begun.
Controversial, often demonized, and explosively powerful, fracking could be the key to a new American century, or at least a few decades said former CIA Director David Petraeus.
Petraeus joined a series of pro-fracking speakers at an upscale Manhattan hotel for a Gatestone Institute symposium on how the American energy revolution would fuel prosperity and international influence.
The speakers drilled into the evolution and impact of hydraulic fracturing and how this innovation was key to unlocking America’s next economic upswing.
For Petraeus and fellow former CIA Director Robert Woolsey, that includes reasserting American influence on the world stage in the face of countries like Russia and China.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated in 2013 that the United States would move beyond Russia to become the world’s top natural gas producer. That rise has come with a drop in prices that gives American companies cheap power to grow, “an unbelievable, an insurmountable comparative advantage,” according to Petraeus.
“Three or four years ago, we were talking about a term called peak oil,” he said.
That was when Petraeus was head of the CIA. Back then; they were trying to calculate how more sanctions against Iran would affect oil prices. But instead of finding that production had peaked, they found American production was increasing.
The United States has increased daily oil production by about a million barrels a year over the last three years, said Petraeus. Meanwhile consumption has come down and if Congress lifts a ban on oil exports, the United States could become an energy exporter. That process is already underway for natural gas, and Petraeus would like to see liquefied natural gas exported to counter Russian influence over Europe.
Not that fracking is without its problems.
“There are true and serious environmental concerns,” Petraeus acknowledged. The first is during drilling itself, when the bore passes through the aquifer where groundwater rests. The second comes from methane, a potent greenhouse gas, discharged as the drill reaches downward. And finally, the water pumped into the hole to create the fracture includes 2 percent worth of chemical additives, some of them lethal.
But for Petraeus, Woolsey, Wall Street Journal writer Gregory Zuckerman, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, and others that spoke, fracking is key to unlocking American prosperity and giving it the economic heft to power international influence.
Petraeus calls it the biggest story in energy since 1973 when the OPEC raised oil prices sharply.
“It does reorder geopolitics,” he said.