The faint rumble of an economic recovery can be heard in certain sections of the country where new energy technologies are opening up vast reserves of oil and natural gas. These epicenters of job creation not only promise to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, but they offer the possibility that America will become--once again--the leading energy producer in the world.
Thanks to production of the Bakken shale fields, North Dakota enjoys the highest employment rate in the country. New home construction is booming, and builders are having a difficult time keeping up with consumer demand. And while many states are facing historic budget deficits, North Dakota is reaping the benefits of growing oil revenues that have generated back-to-back budget surpluses.
In Pennsylvania, development of Marcellus shale gas has already translated into 140,000 new jobs and $11.2 billion in economic output during 2010, according to a recent Penn State University analysis. And beneath much of eastern Ohio lies the relatively untapped Utica Shale formation, which the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program estimates will create 204,000 new jobs in a state that experienced the third-highest job loss during since the recession began. Moreover, economic output will increase by more than $23 billion and wages by $12.3 billion during the same time frame, the program concludes.
That isn’t just good news for truck drivers, pipefitters, and other hard-working Americans who have been looking for a job. It means that families will be able to buy homes, send children to college and contribute to their retirement accounts. Restaurants, grocery stores and other small businesses will likewise ride the rising tide of prosperity.
But some regulators and politicians are pursuing policies that would prevent states with promising shale formations from reaching their full economic potential.
For instance, the administration ignored the advice of respected scientists and leading industry experts by imposing a moratorium on all offshore drilling following the Gulf of Mexico spill last year. In the end, tens of thousands of people were sent to the unemployment lines, an independent study by Louisiana State University economist Joseph Mason found. Another report suggested that as many 46,200 jobs were immediately idled by the moratorium, and that long term job losses could reach 120,000 by 2014.
Now, the “Washington knows best” crowd is contemplating a coup to take away states’ regulatory authority over what happens on their own lands and may also mandate job-killing restrictions. The administration insists the answer to our energy needs is to pump taxpayer dollars into failed companies like Solyndra while imposing massive new taxes on the oil and gas industry. As if that weren’t enough, Washington policymakers have proposed 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.
If Washington was serious about putting America back to work, an about-face on its domestic energy policy would be a good place to start. Allowing states to explore their shale formations for oil and natural gas will not only create jobs in hard-hit economies, but it will also set America on a course to lead the world in safe, affordable energy production.