by Jeremy Moule
During the presidential campaign, Republican Mitt Romney made some noise about how President Barack Obama was, more or less, standing in the way of increased domestic energy production.
The campaign is over, Romney lost, and media outlets are finally picking up on reports that the United States is on pace to pass Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer. The Associated Press reported this on October 23, a couple of weeks before the election.
Yesterday, however, the International Energy Agency released its new World Energy Outlook. In its summary of the report, Yale Environment 360 says that advances in unconventional drilling, a category that includes horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing as well as deep-water offshore drilling, could make the United States the world's biggest oil producer within a decade. Combined with the increase in natural gas extraction, which is also driven by unconventional drilling, the country could produce almost all of its own energy by 2035.
Media across the country are now running with the story. But a critical point is missing from the narrative. Increased oil production will enable continued oil consumption, and that means greenhouse gas emissions. Without curtailing the need for and production of oil, those emissions will exacerbate climate change. And climate change is already factoring into destructive and harmful weather events.
The unconventional extraction methods that are driving this growth also carry serious risks of environmental contamination and destruction. The Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, which spilled approximately 5 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, ought to serve as an example of what can go wrong.