No doubt the new International Energy Agency (IEA)'s latest World Energy Outlook will be cause for celebration for the fossil fuel industry. In it, IEA points to the strong oil and gas production in the U.S. and predicts that by within a decade or so, the U.S. will become the world's largest oil producer, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia. By 2030, North America could be a net oil exporter and, around the same time, the U.S. will likely be energy independent. Natural gas is expected to perform even better than oil due to the increase in fracking operations and by 2020, the U.S. is likely to be a net exporter. Yet, instead of celebrating, we should take this news with a mix of caution and concern.
Energy independence is necessary for our geopolitical and economic future. However, energy independence built on doubling down on fracking and extreme energy extraction is not the path we should choose. The IEA report notes that half of the increase in production to 2035 will come from unconventional gas -- i.e. fracking. This is not good news. Fracking is a harmful practice. It poisons drinking water supplies, increases the risk of earthquakes, and causes severe health problems for adjacent communities. Not to mention the economic promises made by fracking companies to local communities never really materialize. Pennsylvania is still waiting for the fracking jobs promised since 2007.