Source of energy beyond our own

In 1973 -- as a gasoline shortage consumed the nation -- President Richard Nixon outlined Project Independence 1980, “a series of plans and goals set to insure that by the end of this decade, Americans will not have to rely on any source of energy beyond our own.” Gerald Ford, in his 1975 State of the Union address, called for “a massive program” to ease demand and increase supply “to achieve the independence we want by 1985.” Jimmy Carter, more modestly, aimed for the United States to cut its dependence on foreign oil by half by the end of the 1980s.

Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all set similar goals at different points in their presidential campaigns or presidencies. Typically, their political opponents did too. Little serious progress toward those goals was achieved during most of their terms in office.

And now -- after more than 40 years of promises, programs, and extended deadlines -- the United States is on the verge of producing more energy than it consumes. Some programs, such as new fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks, help. But the greatest force behind the changing energy landscape is more technological than political.

Innovative production techniques have allowed energy companies to access shale oil and natural gas deposits that simply hadn’t been accessible before. At the heart of this is hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The process uses pressurized liquid to create cracks in rock, thus releasing different energy sources from the ground. The results have been stunning.


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