The New York Times reports this morning that exploring the Texas shale for oil (as opposed to gas) could increase U.S. oil supplies by 25 percent, with fewer risks than off-shore drilling presents.
Nothing is perfect. (But don't ask the Arkansas Legislative Shale Caucus to believe the downside:)
The technique, also called fracking, has been widely used in the last decade to unlock vast new fields of natural gas, but drillers only recently figured out how to release large quantities of oil, which flows less easily through rock than gas. As evidence mounts that fracking poses risks to water supplies, the federal government and regulators in various states are considering tighter regulations on it.
The oil industry says any environmental concerns are far outweighed by the economic benefits of pumping previously inaccessible oil from fields that could collectively hold two or three times as much oil as Prudhoe Bay, the Alaskan field that was the last great onshore discovery.
Once again: We almost certainly want to explore the shale. But no matter how many jobs it creates, it doesn't mean it should be done without adequate regulatory oversight and every possible means of protecting people and the environment from harm. That's not happening now in Arkansas in the gas patch.