Throughout the mid-2000s, the controversial fracking boom in the United States upended the global energy industry. America went from one of the world’s largest importers of foreign oil to the world’s largest producer of natural gas and crude oil over the course of just one decade. The supposed energy independence, which the Trump administration and its supporters have touted as a major driver of economic growth that started long before Trump took office, was supposed to free the country of its reliance on foreign oil. But American oil prices are still largely tied to the global market, and the recent pandemic has caused the fracking boom to go bust, according to the New York Times.

Demand for oil and natural gas has taken a nosedive, and oil producers are racing to provide the lowest prices possible. In April, American oil producers were offering oil contracts at a price of negative $37.63 per barrel, meaning they were literally paying people to take their oil.

Now, drillers who have spent the last few decades cracking rocks and bringing fossil fuel deposits to the surface are going bankrupt. Whiting Petroleum sought bankruptcy protection in April, as did Diamond Offshore Drilling. Chesapeake Energy, one of the pioneers of the fracking revolution, declared bankruptcy in June. As all of these companies seek to reorganize after getting shellacked by the pandemic, they’ve spent millions of dollars in cash bonuses to reward their executives while essentially abandoning the wells that they profited off of, leaving the potential for an environmental disaster.

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