A huge chunk of Colorado’s political conversation in 2014 revolved around fracking and its effects on everything from our environment to our wallets. But lately it’s starting to seem like the raging fracking debates might have been a lot of wasted energy.
Thanks largely to plummeting oil and gas prices—the average gallon of gas in the United States went from more than $3.25 in 2013 to around $2 now (a mere $1.90 in Colorado)—the economic incentive to frack as much natural gas as possible has dwindled considerably in just the past few months. Last week, WPX Energy, the state’s largest producer of natural gas, announced that it will “pause” some of its fracking production in the Piceance Basin in Western Colorado. Some of its partners, which provide a variety of related production services, also announced imminent layoffs as a result of the slowdown.
This shouldn’t be taken to mean the fracking boom has gone bust; oil prices have always been cyclical and are sure to rise again, although not even the experts can confidently predict exactly when this might happen.
The hope here is that people on all sides of the fracking discussions will use this lull to re-examine their positions. Oil and gas companies can look for ways to make their techniques less intrusive and more efficient and environmentally sound. “Fracktivists” might rethink their often rigid approach and look for compromises that take advantage of the practice’s economic opportunity within guidelines that are acceptable to their communities. And the courts and the relevant state agencies can figure out just how much control over fracking these communities should be allowed to have.
Consumers will always welcome lower fuel prices, and as long as it’s cheaper to fill up our tanks again (if only momentarily), it’s up to all those in the fracking trenches to use this downtime as wisely as possible.
Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.