Natural gas boom could prompt fracking frenzy, industry-wide exports

WASHINGTON - A recent domestic natural gas boom is prompting the industry to seek export permits and could inspire a fracking frenzy.

The boom already has lowered U.S. energy prices while stoking fears of environmental disaster.

Now U.S. producers are poised to ship vast quantities of gas overseas as energy companies seek permits for proposed export projects that could set off a renewed frenzy of fracking.

Expanded drilling is unlocking enormous reserves of crude oil and natural gas, and that's offering the potential of moving the country closer to its decades-long quest for energy independence.

Yet as the industry looks to profit from foreign markets, there is the specter of higher prices at home and increased manufacturing costs for products from plastics to fertilizers.