The golden age of hydraulic fracturing began about 10 years ago “as oil and gas producers began to explore the nation’s massive shale formations in earnest,” according to an essay on the American Society of Mechanical Engineers website. Expansion of the technique in subterranean shale formations has pushed the United States toward oil and natural gas self-sufficiency in one decade. Because of this boom and oversupply, oil prices naturally have dropped. But since mid-2014 they have fallen nearly 50 percent, thanks in part to Saudi Arabia’s strategy to hobble America’s production by keeping oil value low — cutting profit margins at oil companies, especially smaller ones. Softer global demand has also pushed prices downward. Read more.