Obama

As Obama Visits Upstate New York, the Fracking Debate Takes Center Stage

President Obama is planning to tout his education plan when he visits upstate New York this week, beginning with an appearance in Buffalo today—but much of his audience is likely to be interested in only one subject: fracking. Obama has, for the most part, been in favor of using fracking—more properly known as hydraulic fracturing—to exploit the country’s huge resources of shale natural gas. In his 2012 State of the Union speech, Obama pledged to “take every possible action to safely develop” natural gas, promising that shale gas would add hundreds of thousands of jobs to the economy. And he’s been true to his word—the U.S. produced in 2012 8.13 trillion cubic ft. of natural gas from shale deposits, which requires fracking, nearly double the total from 2010, and the Energy Information Administration projects that by 2030 that figure could pass 14 trillion cubic ft. While the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department are working on possibly stronger new national regulations of fracking, for the most part the natural gas industry has had its way under Obama. He may not have intended it when he entered the White House in 2009, but Obama really has been America’s “driller-in-chief.“ That’s exactly why protesters are likely to be out in force tomorrow in Buffalo, and even more so when Obama continues his visit to Binghamton, NY. Fracking remains controversial throughout the U.S., thanks to concerns over potential water contamination and pollution from wells, as well as fears that the new supplies of natural gas will bind the country more permanently to carbon-heavy fossil fuels. Ground zero for that emotional debate is New York state, which has both a massive potential reserve of shale gas and a determined community of environmentalists and activists working to ensure that fracking never happens in the Empire State. “We’re going to be present in Binghamton by the hundreds, if not the thousands,” Walter Hang, the head of Ithaca-based Toxic Targeting, told WNYC. (MORE: The War Over Fracking Comes to the English Countryside) In New York so far, environmentalists have

The Unintended Consequences of Exporting Natural Gas

The best intentions during an election campaign have a habit of twisting beyond recognition once a candidate is in power. I doubt when Barack Obama was teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago he thought that, once in the White House, his Administration would be responsible for one of the most chilling crackdowns on the freedom of the press in recent American history. And yet, after the revelation of the Department of Justice’s wide-ranging move to seize phone records of Associated Press reporters and a deeply disturbing investigation of the Fox News reporter James Rosen — seriously, read this — Obama’s legacy has been permanently altered. I also doubt that the candidate who in 2008 ran on a cap-and-trade plan and promised to make climate change a top priority thought he would go down as the driller in chief. And yet — without taking anything away from Obama’s very real accomplishments in supporting renewable energy and efficiency — that’s exactly what’s happening. Domestic oil and natural gas production have boomed under Obama’s watch, and even though he was hardly the cause (most of the new fracking is happening on private land largely outside federal regulation), neither had Obama done much to stand in the way, at least according to his increasingly frustrated environmental allies. Greens want Obama to stop the proposed Keystone pipeline and halt the expansion of fracked oil and natural gas, but as Obama begins his second term in earnest, that seems unlikely. (MORE: Why the Shale-Gas Industry Needs Regulations for Fracking) Take natural gas. For some time, gas companies have been pushing the federal government to make it easier to export natural gas in liquefied form to foreign countries. This is itself a huge turnaround. Less than a decade ago, domestic production of natural gas was so low that facilities were being built in U.S. ports to import foreign natural gas. The shale-gas revolution, made possible by fracking, changed all that. Now the U.S. literally has more natural gas than it knows what to do with, and the