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An oil derrick is seen at a fracking site for extracting oil outside of Williston, N.D., March 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton) An oil derrick is seen at a fracking site for extracting oil outside of Williston, N.D., March 11, 2013. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)  

Oil and gas industry celebrates 65 years of ‘fracking’

The oil and gas industry is celebrating the 65th birthday of hydraulic fracturing, which has spawned a boom in U.S. energy production despite adverse economic conditions and unfriendly environmental policies.

The industry has a good reason to celebrate fracking on Monday. The drilling technique has unlocked vast reserves of oil and natural gas from underground shale formations and helped rural economies from Pennsylvania to North Dakota and Texas. On top of that, fracking has made the U.S. the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas.

“Americans have long been energy pioneers, from the 1800’s when the first wells were drilled to today,” said Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry operations at the American Petroleum Institute.

“As part of that history, on March 17, 1949, we developed the technology to safely unlock shale and other tight formations, and now the U.S. is the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas,” Milito added.

API has launched a social media campaign to celebrate 65 years of fracking by sending out digital birthday cards with a black and white photo of the world’s first commercially fractured wells in Duncan, Oklahoma.

Fracking involves injecting water, sand and chemical mixtures more than a mile underground to unleash oil and gas from shale. Environmental groups have opposed fracking, saying that it contaminates water supplies and releases methane which contributes to global warming. Though fracking has not yet been linked to groundwater contamination.

Activists in California are trying to get Gov. Jerry Brown to put a moratorium on fracking, and thousands of activists stormed the state capital on Saturday to demand that he put up a stop to the practice.

“Governor Brown likes to think of himself as climate champion,” wrote Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org. “But just like President Obama, Brown has refused to stand up to Big Oil.”

But aside from the fact that fracking has not been linked to environmental problems, the drilling practice has helped create millions of jobs and boost family incomes. A study by the economic consulting firm IHS found that fracking operations boosted household disposable incomes by $1,200 on average, supported 2.1 million jobs and added $284 billion to the U.S. economy.

“Thanks to fracking, we can produce more energy, with a smaller environmental footprint – changing America’s energy trajectory from scarcity to abundance,” said Milito. “This is a birthday worth celebrating.”

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