The Environmental Protection Agency's new air pollution rules for the oil and gas industry may seem like odd timing, as President Obama has been trying to deflect Republican criticism that he overregulates energy industries. But the rules weren't the Obama administration's idea.
Several years ago, communities in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming complained about air pollution from natural gas booms in their local areas.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced new rules Wednesday to control the problem of air pollution coming from wells being drilled by the booming oil and natural gas drilling industry.
Currently, waste products from the drilling operations, which include a mix of chemicals, sand and water, can be pumped into open enclosures or pits, where toxic substances can make their way into the air. The new rules will require this fluid to be captured by 2015, and flared — or burned off — in the meantime.
There's a boom in natural gas production in the United States, a boom so big the market is having trouble absorbing it all.
The unusually warm weather this winter is one reason for the excess, since it reduced the need for people to burn gas to heat their homes. A bigger reason, however, is the huge increase in gas production made possible by new methods of coaxing gas out of shale rock formations.
Since the Arab oil embargoes of the 1960s and 70s, it's been conventional wisdom to talk about American dependence on oil from the Persian Gulf. But the global oil market has changed dramatically since then.
Today, the U.S. actually gets most of its imported oil from Canada and Latin America.
And many Americans might be surprised to learn that the U.S. now imports roughly the same amount of oil from Africa as it does from the Persian Gulf. African imports were a bit higher in 2010, while Persian Gulf oil accounted for a bit more last year.