Newer exploration and production techniques, like hydraulic fracturing, are often costlier, leading to higher prices at the pump, and environmentalists argue they are riskier. Industry players dispute this. "The fact that you can count on one hand the kind of blowouts that have occurred in the face of these tens of thousands of wells is a pretty remarkable testimony to the safety and the risk management that the companies provide," said John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell Oil.

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