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Dear fracking: Happy 65th birthday! Love, Big Oil

Oil workers on a hydrofracking site.
Getty Images
Oil workers on a hydrofracking site.

The oil and gas industry is celebrating a milestone on Monday: the birth of hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking.

The controversial process of pumping water underground to release gas—which has helped grease the resurgence of U.S. energy production—was created 65 years ago, according to a statement by the American Petroleum Institute released on Monday. By all indications, the old girl is aging well: fracking has generated a surge in shale vaulting the U.S. into the upper strata of global oil and gas producers.

To commemorate the occasion, the oil and gas lobby created digital birthday cards featuring the first fracking well in Duncan, Okla. The first fracking patent was issued in 1949, with exclusive rights granted to Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Co., an early incarnation of the oil and defense contracting giant.

During the first year, 332 fracking wells sprang up across Oklahoma and Texas, the API noted, which led to a 75 percent jump in production and saw the number of wells mushroom into the thousands in the subsequent decade.

Fracking is credited with unleashing the animal spirits of a moribund manufacturing sector, and led to a surge in activity in shale production hotbeds such as North Dakota and Pennsylvania. It is also credited with creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs across the country.

However, the process itself is reviled by activists worried about its impact on the environment. Opponents have linked fracking from everything to water pollution, environmental degradation and, more recently, earthquakes. California has placed tight restrictions on hydraulic drilling, while New York is weighing whether to lift or extend a moratorium on the practice.

(Read more: The ripple effect of the US shale boom)

"Thanks to fracking, we can produce more energy, with a smaller environmental footprint—changing America's energy trajectory from scarcity to abundance," said API's director of upstream and industry operations, Erik Milito, in a statement. "This is a birthday worth celebrating."

By CNBC's Javier E. David. Follow him on Twitter @TeflonGeek.

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