COMMENTARY: Want $4 gas again?
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COMMENTARY: Want $4 gas again?

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As voters head to the polls in this year’s presidential primaries and general election, America’s affordable gasoline prices are also on the ballot. Bernie Sanders is calling for a total ban on fracking for oil and natural gas. This means voters will be choosing between $2-per-gallon gasoline and $4-per-gallon gasoline.

Before the fracking revolution, U.S. oil production bottomed out in 2008 at 5,000 barrels per day. As a result, prices for regular-grade gasoline topped $4 per gallon. Thanks to fracking, U.S. production has more than doubled since then, bringing prices down to $2.32 per gallon. It is simple supply and demand — more oil production means lower prices; less oil production means higher prices.

So, the question is simple. Do we want to pay over $4 per gallon for gasoline again, or do we want to pay closer to $2 per gallon? Do we want your Uber ride to cost $10 or $20?

The effect of a fracking ban on electricity prices would be even worse. Natural gas powers the lion’s share of U.S. electricity. Thanks to fracking, natural gas prices have fallen to merely one-third the price ($2.22 per million BTU) as in 2008 (over $8 per million BTU during most of 2008). No fracking means a return to those very high prices. A December 2019 study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce confirmed this, finding a fracking ban would cause natural gas prices to more than triple. So, if you would like your electricity bills to go through the roof, then you should vote to ban fracking.

Pendulum is swinging

Just as important, fracking has kept America’s economy immune from Middle East turmoil. The ISIS takeover of much of the Middle East, civil war in Iraq and Syria, and missile strikes on Iranian military figures would in years past have sent oil prices skyrocketing and the American economy into a deep recession. Now, with fracked U.S. oil dramatically boosting world supplies, none of these events cause oil price shocks or economic recession.

Similarly, fracking is a major benefit to U.S. national security, providing immunity from foreign wars and giving the United States unprecedented diplomatic leverage. American troops no longer need to be inserted into Middle East conflicts to sustain U.S. and global oil supplies. Offering fracked American natural gas to Poland, Belarus and other nations has provided important push-back against Russian foreign policy aggression. Fracking’s blow to Russian international aggression has been so strong that Russia has been caught red-handed funding and colluding with American environmental radicals pushing an American fracking ban.

Ultimately, however, the economy is the most important reason to resist a fracking ban. Higher gasoline prices, higher electricity prices, higher prices for goods and services, and resulting unemployment all make Americans poorer and reduce our standard of living. Why should we live in accelerating poverty when we can live in accelerating abundance? Poverty inflicts real and painful damage on people’s lives. Lower energy costs and a prosperous economy, by contrast, make life much healthier and more enjoyable.

Keeping Madison’s republic

Do we want a return to $4 gasoline? Do we want to feel like crying again every time we fill up our gasoline tanks? Then we should vote for Sanders’ fracking ban. Do we instead want to keep more money for housing, education, health care and all the other goods and services that make life enjoyable? Then we should vote to continue the fracking revolution.

James Taylor is director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy at The Heartland Institute. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

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