Dec 20, 2019 - Energy & Environment

How a Democratic president might be able to take action on fracking

Fracking site

Photo: Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

One of the higher-profile energy topics in the primary fight has been a push by several Democrats to ban or restrict fracking, although it didn't surface at the primary debates Thursday night.

Driving the news: A new note from the data analytics firm Kayrros sizes up what a president might actually be able to do — thwart fracking on federal lands. They account for a relatively small but hardly trivial share of U.S. oil and gas production.

What they found: "Federal-land fracking does not represent an irreplaceable share of U.S. [oil] production, neither is it a footnote — thanks in part to the fact that wells on Federal leases have been punching above their weight," they note.

How it works: Their analysis shows that the New Mexico side of a key section of the booming Permian basin (which is largely in Texas) is the epicenter of fracked oil wells on federal lands.

  • Wells drilled on the New Mexico side of the Delaware basin, a subsection of the larger Permian, beginning 2018 account for 17% of U.S. production growth since then.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce yesterday released a study on the effect of some candidates' calls to ban fracking on all U.S. lands.

  • It's a goal of Sanders and Warren that would require congressional action that's very unlikely to occur.

What they're saying: The analysis, which looks at oil and natural gas production, argues it would be "catastrophic" for the economy, cost millions of jobs (4 million in 2021 alone); and send heating cost and pump prices skyward.

Go deeper: Warren's 2020 ascent sends ripples through oil industry

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