We’ve experienced a tumultuous year as a nation and more than an ample share of uncertainty around the globe. Even in these challenging times, we have many reasons to give thanks in Texas — and we can tip our hats to the men and women of the oil and natural gas industry and the resources under our feet for a good bit of our good fortune here.
As recently as 2005, back when I served East Texas in our state Senate, our country imported nearly 65 percent of the oil we consumed each day. Over the past decade, safe and responsible fracking and horizontal drilling have allowed us to cut our dependence on foreign oil by more than half. Our nation is more secure because of it. Fracking is a time-tested and proven process that lasts about 3 to 5 days to create tiny cracks in deep, shale rock formations to free trapped oil and natural gas.
This technology that revolutionized oil and natural gas development around the world was perfected right here in Texas, starting nearly 70 years ago. Thanks to Texas-born innovation, our state is the No. 1 oil and natural gas producer in the nation, and the United States is the world’s top producer of oil and natural gas liquids, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Today, most of the oil and natural gas in Texas would be unreachable without fracking. For example, the U.S. Geological Survey recently announced that the layers of shale rock in the West Texas Wolfcamp formation hold 20 billion barrels of oil, the largest continuous oil deposit ever discovered in the United States.
And we’re putting all of that oil and natural gas to good use while regulations are working to protect the Texas environment. Abundant natural gas is keeping electricity affordable; the average household saved $800 in energy costs last year. Without fracking, electricity prices would increase significantly, hurting low- and fixed-income Texans the most.
Natural gas also plays an important role in renewable energy development. Natural gas is often used as the backup power source for renewable energy facilities that can only provide power when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.
Beyond electricity, 96 percent of the products we use each day contain components made with natural gas. From cellphones and laptops to shampoo and hair brushes to eyeglasses and heart valves, natural gas plays a central role in our lives and products we rely on every day.
In the midst of this progress and pocketbook savings for Texans, the oil and natural gas industry is improving our environment. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. recently hit a new 25-year low as more power plants switch to natural gas. And our water is safe because wells are required by law to be constructed with multiple layers of steel and cement to protect groundwater. Each well is pressure-tested to ensure its integrity before fracking takes place. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that these regulations are working when it published its multiyear, national study that found fracking does not pose a threat to our country’s water system.
In addition to providing energy security and a safe and improving environment, the oil and natural gas industry’s contribution to our overall economy can’t be overstated. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Texans who have a job in oil and natural gas, fracking has led to a revival of manufacturing in our state. More broadly, industries that span our economy rely on the oil and natural gas industry. From health care to agriculture and transportation to information technology, every economic sector must have reliable, affordable power. And in Texas, they have it — and our economy is stronger for it.
So as we give thanks for the bounties of freedom and blessings this holiday season, let’s also give thanks to the men and women of the Texas oil and natural gas industry who play such an important role in our economy, our environment and our future.
Todd Staples is president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association and former Texas Agriculture Commissioner.