Gasoline crisis averted
Editor: To understand the state of American energy production, contrast the sharp run-up in oil and natural gas prices after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans 12 years ago and the less-extreme effects on energy prices from the flooding that devastated Houston in Hurricane Harvey.
As of now, gas prices have increased about 25 cents a gallon in some places, nothing like the huge price spike after Hurricane Katrina. The fallout would have been much worse if not for something that didn’t exist a decade ago: the shale boom.
Due to new techniques like horizontal drilling and advances in hydraulic fracturing, what are known as tight oil resources — where oil is produced from rock formations such as shale — account for 48 percent of the nation’s oil production and 60 percent of the natural gas production, according to the Energy Information Administration. A large share is produced in the Marcellus and Utica shales.
Simply, shale production means less vulnerability to hurricanes and political upheavals.
Had it not been for the shale boom, there could have been a full-blown energy crisis. The Marcellus and Utica shales are among the most productive drilling regions in the nation. Since 2010 natural gas production has surged by 520 percent in West Virginia, 920 percent in Pennsylvania and 1,880 percent in Ohio. There also have been dramatic increases in oil production.
Texas is often thought of as the center of oil production, but increasingly production comes from Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Dakota. Consequently, the impact of the Texas storm on oil and gas prices has been relatively moderate.
Another mitigating factor in holding down the price of gasoline and other refinery products has been the decline in oil imports. Thanks to the shale boom, Americans pay much less for gasoline than they did a decade ago. JOHN J. INTERVAL BRIDGEVILLE, ALLEGHENY COUNTY