Fracking in America

The boom in U.S. oil and gas production is unprecedented in modern America. As recently as October 2005, we were importing 4.56 million barrels of petroleum-based products per day, while exporting just 871 thousand barrels of product.

Miraculously, just six years later, we pulled even. As of last month, we exported 1.1 million more barrels of petroleum-based products per day than we import.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration; idea originally appeared in article by the Fool's Morgan Housel in January 2012. Does not include crude oil imports or exports.

As the graph shows, things started to change dramatically around 2006. That coincides with the onset of new, more effective fracking techniques that helped to unlock previously inextractable deposits of both oil and natural gas.

Environmental concerns
This energy boom has been a major economic force for the country, but not everyone is so sure that lower unemployment is a fair long-term price to pay for possible environmental degradation.

Several groups have raised concerns. First, there is the possibility that carcinogenic chemicals are leaking into the water supply. Along the same lines, others are concerned about the total volume of water needed to frack. And residents in Ohio even think that the disposal of fracked water could be leading to an increase in earthquakes in the region.

Legal requirements for fracking
With so many worried about the potential for harmful side effects, the federal government looks poised to enact standards early next year. The standards will probably cover the disclosure of chemicals used in fracking, the safe construction of wells, and the specifics of wastewater management.

Depending on where they operate, these regulations could have noticeable consequences for the nation's top energy companies:

Top natural gas producers


Million Cubic Feet/Day



Chesapeake Energy




Devon Energy


Southwestern Energy


Source: Natural Gas Supply Association; numbers for first quarter of 2013.

Finding statistics for oil output in the United States by company is a little more difficult, but in Texas, which produces twice as much oil as the next closest state, the top producers are easy to find: Occidental and EOG Resources , which offered up 117,000 and 110,000 barrels of oil per day in 2012, respectively.

What could these standards mean?
It would be easy to simply conclude that these seven companies would be the most affected by changes in fracking regulations. But it's not that simple.

In an effort to help you better understand how federal, state, and local rules could affect your energy investments, I've broken down seven of the country's top energy producing states. By clicking on any one of the black states, you'll be taken to an article outlining how fracking regulation is playing out there, who the major energy companies are, and how they might be affected by changes in fracking rules.


The differences from state to state and community to community can be drastic. For instance, North Dakota, Texas, and West Virginia are certain that their fracking safety standards are so good, the federal government need not concern itself with regulations. A tiny county in New Mexico, on the other hand, has followed the lead of New York state in putting a stop to any and all forms of fracking. And studies coming out of Pennsylvania questions whether it's fracking or just compression stations that are damaging the environment.

Making sense of this all can be difficult. For that reason, The Motley Fool is offering a comprehensive look at three energy companies set to soar during this transformation in the energy industry. Only one of the three stocks is mentioned in this article. To find out which three companies are spreading their wings, check out the special free report, "3 Stocks for the American Energy Bonanza." Don't miss out on this timely opportunity; click here to access your report -- it's absolutely free.

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Fool contributor Brian Stoffel has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Devon Energy and has options on Chesapeake Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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