Jun 27, 2017

America's oil and gas boom happened under Obama

The issue

President Trump and his top advisers will be taking credit for America's boom in oil and natural gas as part of this White House-themed Energy Week. "For years, Washington stood in the way of our energy dominance," Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Monday, "and that changes now."

The facts

The big rise in oil and natural gas production occurred mostly regardless of — not despite — Obama. His administration did issue rules the oil and gas industry said were onerous, but they weren't nearly as restrictive as many Democrats had wanted. The Energy Department under Obama also streamlined the process for exporting liquefied natural gas, which encouraged more natural-gas production.

America's oil and gas boom has been fueled mostly by private-sector applications of two extraction technologies since 2007: hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Federal research and development money over the decades from Democratic and Republican administrations alike also helped. Trump's budget proposes slashing funding for the Energy Department's office of fossil energy, which in the past has helped fund extraction technologies.

Why it matters

There aren't many policy levers the Trump administration can pull that would make America a bigger oil and gas producer than it already is, especially in the short-term, because the trend is fueled by market and technology developments, not policy. That's something to keep in mind amid the bullish rhetoric coming out of the Trump White House this week. Longer term policies, like opening up drilling access to federal waters and lands, could have an impact if prices stay high enough — another reminder of the market's overriding influence.

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