As media pundits and government officials wring their hands about how to jump-start an anemic U.S. economy and reduce unemployment, the answer is right underneath our feet and has been for some time now, as technology has continued its advance.
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It is estimated that upwards of 1.4 trillion barrels of shale oil have been discovered in the United States -- and even more natural gas. This is enough to supply our economy with cheap energy for 300 years.
We should remove the barriers that have been erected to harvesting these hydrocarbons. Increasing responsible oil exploration on federal and private lands could significantly reduce unemployment as the multiplier effect for jobs in supporting industries will be significant.
It’s ironic that Big Oil could be the industry to lead us out of this self-imposed economic straightjacket.
The United States is also the leader in hydraulic fracturing technology. Everyone who wants to emulate our fracking success is coming here to learn how to do it. So why don’t we stay in the lead for this field and sell the technology all around the world? This would create thousands of high-paying manufacturing jobs in the United States.
The average poor family in poverty spends a large percentage of its income on energy to fuel their cars, heat their homes, etc. In some extreme cases, families spend upwards of 50% of their paycheck on energy. What if we could halve their energy bill by providing cheap plentiful fuel? Talk about reducing income inequality and providing an economic stimulus!
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The United States could even steer some of these profits towards reducing our overwhelming sovereign debt. The economic growth achieved from growing the energy sector will provide additional revenue but the federal government could emulate Alaska and put away money for a rainy day. Did you know that each Alaskan receives several thousand dollars a year from the Alaska Permanent Fund set up to ensure the state’s population benefited from its oil boom decades ago?
You would think any card carrying socialist would jump at the opportunity to obtain these resources and it may be an area the left and right could find common ground.
The national security aspects of reducing dependence on foreign oil are immense. We no longer would be sending money to countries that want to destroy our way of life and want to kill us. We no longer would have a national interest in protecting the energy resources in the Middle East and elsewhere. Our allies in Europe could benefit from American exports as well and reduce the opportunities for Putin to blackmail nations with energy access and pricing.
Natural gas is currently a much cleaner fuel than other hydrocarbons. T. Boone Pickens was dead on; let’s use natty gas to provide a bridge to cleaner and more renewable energy sources in the future. Alternatives fuels are just not ready for prime time -- natural gas provides some breathing room until they are.
The main argument against harvesting America’s hydrocarbon resources is the now tired religion of climate change. The science is not settled here by any means but a consensus is forming among global decision makers that yes, climate does change. The Earth’s climate has changed throughout the ages. It’s just not caused by human activity. Sunspots, unknown factors, and the natural climate cycles of the Earth are to blame. That’s not to say we should stop finding cleaner way to fuel our economy; however, we shouldn’t go back to living in caves where the life expectancy didn’t pass 30.
Energy is an issue where the left and right can work together in this country. We can responsibly harvest our resources, explode our economy, help the poor, pay off the debt, and put money away for a rainy day. We can also make the future a much safer place for our children by improving our national security. It’s time to get the government out of the way on energy policy. So let’s approve the Keystone Pipeline, increase drilling on federal lands and let the private sector lead us out of this economic hole we have dug.
L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and bond trader. His second thriller novel, Sugar, deals with American energy policy in the Middle East.