Dear Obama administration: You're welcome. Love, Fracking.

Leastaways, that’s what the highly useful drilling technique known as fracking would say, if fracking was somehow personified and could talk.

As I mentioned the other day, hydraulic fracturing on state and private lands has been largely responsible for the United States’ recent oil-and-gas boom, which in turn has largely been responsible for helping the U.S. to achieve a reduction in the trade deficit that President Obama has so loftily included as one of his economic goals in trying to double U.S. exports. In that same vein, the oil-and-gas boom also recently helped to revise upward the estimates for our (still pitifully slow) economic growth:

Almost entirely on the back of stronger exports, last week the U.S. Commerce Department revised upward its economic growth estimate for the second quarter, from 1.7 to 2.5 percent. Exports from April to June grew at their fastest pace in two years, pushing down the U.S. trade deficit to 2.7 percent of gross domestic product. That’s less than half what it was at its peak of around 6 percent of GDP in late 2005.

Most of the boost in exports came from tangible stuff sold abroad: goods, rather than services. The biggest among them were petroleum products refined from all the crude oil the U.S. is producing—unlocked by fracking. Through June, the U.S. has exported an average of 99 million barrels of petroleum each month over the past year. That’s roughly quadruple the amount the U.S. was exporting a decade ago. …

The big question is whether the U.S. can continue to expand its economy while also shrinking its trade deficit—something it hasn’t been able to do for a generation or more. The U.S. will start exporting natural gas at some point over the next few years. That could be the clincher.

No kidding. The White House is eager to credit Obama’s energy policies with oil-and-gas’s success, but the truth is that the boom has been largely extracurricular to President Obama’s economic agenda and a saving grace to which they don’t really like to devote too much attention. Indeed, his administration is still consciously limiting the permitting and access for which energy companies and lawmakers are clamoring, and despite their reluctant and cautious praise for natural gas, they’re still taking their sweet time with allowing for more natural-gas exports while energy companies are left twiddling their thumbs in frustration. I don’t prescribe to some imagined need to balance out the U.S. trade deficit for its own sake, but I am all about the free trade as a means to economic growth — and the Obama administration continues to retard the one substantive economic boon they’ve got going for them.

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David Strom 8:41 PM on March 20, 2023