Thomas Pyle is the president of the Institute for Energy Research.
In a number of small towns and big cities across the United States, economic growth is returning. Thanks to the development of new energy highways, pockets of prosperity are even brighter in some areas than in the pre-recession era.
No, these are not asphalt highways paved with federal stimulus dollars, but rather highways of technology and private investment being used to unlock oil and natural gas that have been trapped in vast shale deposits for millions of years.
The Marcellus Shale formation, for example, spans 65 million acres and contains 262 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Development of that energy has already meant 140,000 jobs and $11.2 billion in economic output for Pennsylvania alone, according to a Penn State University report. More than $12.8 billion in future energy investments are planned with more than 256,400 good paying jobs anticipated over the next nine years.
Until recently, North Dakota wasn't top of mind when it came to discussing economic powerhouses, but the state recently leaped ahead to become the nation's third largest oil producer. Cutting edge drilling technologies and private investment enabled production of the Bakken and underlying Three Forks formations. Job growth is likely to continue well into the future with experts confident that more than 4.3 billion barrels of oil can be recovered from the state, and that number keeps getting revised upwards.
In many communities across the country now connected to the energy production highway, families are able to buy homes for the first time, igniting homebuilding booms. Restaurants and small businesses are being lifted by the same rising tide. Classrooms in those regions are also benefiting from burgeoning state tax coffers.
The energy prosperity enjoyed by Pennsylvania and North Dakota is in stark contrast to the experience of Louisiana and other states bordering the Gulf of Mexico, however. Against the advice of respected scientists and industry officials, the Obama administration severed the region's energy highway following the Macondo Well explosion and subsequent oil spill.
The moratorium was responsible for the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, according to an independent study by Louisiana State University Professor Joseph Mason. The suffering extended beyond the region's small businesses, local contractors, and suppliers in distant states. Lengthy waits for permit approvals following the end of the drilling ban has exacerbated the problem. Many of the drilling rigs and the jobs that go with them have already relocated to other countries, perhaps never to return.
Across the country, the administration and like-minded congressional leaders threaten to sever the thoroughfare of domestic energy jobs. One plan submitted to the "super committee" recommends a $21 billion increase in a misguided scheme to solve the federal budget crisis. Federal regulators are even contemplating taking natural gas drilling regulation away from the states and threaten to impose job-killing restrictions. Another proposal is to add a new carbon tax equal to ten cents per gallon of gas each year and increase it until the United States emits as much carbon dioxide as we did in 1910. Washington doesn't understand the real world.
Simply by not hurting domestic oil and gas production, more than 1 million jobs would be created, concludes a study by consulting firm Wood Mackenzie. Simply by keeping the highway open, 1 in 14 out-of-work Americans would once again find employment.
Symbolically, the Energy for America bus tour has taken to America's highways, traveling over 7,000 miles to underscore the relationship between access to affordable and reliability energy and getting our economy growing again. At every town, the message we receive is the same: Washington could provide no better job stimulus than to stop its war against domestic energy production.