Fracking Comes To Alaska, Triggering New Oil Boom

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Hydraulic fracturing is coming to Alaska, and one professor thinks it could change global politics in favor of U.S. interests.

Companies have discovered in the last year at least 5 billion barrels of recoverable oil on Alaska’s North Slope — a 14 percent increase in U.S. proven reserves. These finds could significantly increase U.S. oil production, changing the global energy game in the U.S.’s favor.

“If these new discoveries become producing fields, the Alaskan Arctic will write a new chapter in the U.S. oil industry’s dramatic ascent,” Dr. Scott L. Montgomery, a professor of international relations at the University of Washington, wrote in an op-ed for The Conversation. “It will increase our leverage over [Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries] OPEC and may help to counter Russia’s geopolitical influence.”

“This prospect raises a new question: How will we will use our clout as the world’s most important new oil power?” Montgomery wrote.

Montgomery argued fracking for Alaskan oil will make the U.S. a major oil exporter. Montgomery says Alaskan oil will be sold to Asia and undercut OPEC’s share of that market.

“Oil remains our one unreplaceable energy source,” Montgomery wrote. “Global mobility and a modern military are, as yet, inconceivable without it. Growth in global demand, centered in developing Asia, will continue for some time, as it did even from 2010 through 2014 when prices were above $90 per barrel.”

The U.S. is the world’s largest and fastest-growing producer of oil and natural gas, surpassing both Russia and Saudi Arabia. U.S. oil production grew 80 percent higher than it was in 2008.

Companies recently found massive untapped oil deposits in Alaska that could be access through fracking. Major oil companies like Conoco are purchasing Alaskan land and developing cost effective methods of fracking in remote regions.

Fracking in Alaska could accelerate as oil prices rise. Fracked Alaskan oil could be profitable to drill at $50 a barrel, which is just under current crude prices.

The Trump administration also has plans to open up the Beaufort and Chukchi seas to offshore drilling, reversing an Obama-era order largely making those areas off-limits to drilling.

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