A Valentine’s Day Ode to Fracking: Column

Happy Valentines Day, everyone. Here is an article I wrote three years ago that appeared in USA  Today that is right for the occasion.

With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, Americans naturally focus on romantic relationships. Chocolates … intimate dinners … flowers … fracking … Wait, what?

Yeah, fracking. Many factors influence the level of happiness in a relationship, but one issue that can make or break a relationship is money. This is where hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” could very well be boosting the love lives of millions.

Fracking has dramatically lowered the cost of gasoline and natural gas, giving single people more resources to find a potential partner and relieving financial tension for people in established relationships. Who knows how many eHarmony accounts have been funded with cash left over from cheap fill-ups and how many divorce lawyers were never hired when suddenly making ends meet became less of a struggle.

Fracking has made the United States the largest producer of natural gas in the world and has nearly doubled the amount of oil produced in the United States since 2008. A study by the Brookings Institution found low natural gas prices may be saving people somewhere between $181 to $432 per person over the coming years, depending on which part of the country they live in.

Large increases in oil production in the United States are a key reason why gas prices are the lowest they have been in many years. The Energy Information Administration estimates the average U.S. household saved more than $700 in lower gasoline costsalone in 2015, compared to 2014, and these savings may be even greater in 2016, as gas prices are lower now than at this time in 2015.

These dollars and cents have a real impact on relationships, whether they are new or well-established. Spending less money on gasoline and heating costs allows more people to spend their cash on other pursuits, such as dating. According to a survey by COUNTRY Financial, debt is an important concern for many Americans, with 78% of respondents believing someone who is single should be worried about a romantic interest’s debt status. Additionally, 38% of those respondents said they would break off a new relationship if they deemed the other person’s debt level was too high.

Money also influences happiness in established relationships. According to Fidelity Investments’ Couples Retirement Study, 47% of couples argue about money. The COUNTRY Financial survey finds that 54% of couples do. Further, a report released by the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics in 2015 found that more people among those surveyed said money worries were more likely to put a strain on a relationship than many other concerns, including working long hours — or even an extra-marital affair.

Far too often, people talk about the economic and monetary benefits of fracking, tax cuts or salary increases in solely financial terms without realizing that real people don’t keep score on checkbook ledger, they care about what money means to them, how it can provide psychological and emotional benefits.

Whether you spend your extra cash on that all-too-important first date, the ring in your pocket for when you finally pop “the question” or the extra financial breathing room that makes any relationship a little easier, hydraulic fracturing is helping people worry less about money, so they can focus more on finding that special someone to spend Valentine’s Day with.

Isaac Orr was a research fellow for energy and environmental policy at The Heartland Institute. Follow him on Twitter @thefrackingguy.