I don’t know about you, but I have learned not to listen to doomsday predictions. Most are founded on partial truths or assumptions. Remember all those doomsday predictions that oil was about to run out? My generation can easily recall the oil embargo of 1973, huge lines for gasoline, and the dire warning from President Carter that oil wells “were drying up all over the world.” At the time, many experts believed that all known petroleum reserves would be depleted by the year 2000.
Energy alarmism is nothing new. In fact, many European authorities predicted during the 1700s that the continent would run out of coal. Although their coal production has indeed slowed tremendously, there remain billions of tons of un-mined coal in Europe. Such errors remind us that even the most brilliant scientists have a lot to learn about what lies below the surface of our planet.
Far from being on the brink of a true energy shortage, two relatively new discoveries open up the possibility that affordable, abundant energy lies in our foreseeable future. Crystalline natural gas (known to scientists as methane hydrate) can be found in tremendous quantities underneath the ocean. In layman’s terms, methane hydrate is ice that can be burned for fuel. Known to scientists since the 1970s, recent improvements in drilling technology make harvesting this rich, clean fuel source a realistic prospect.
I have also written in the past about the technique known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”: a method for releasing oil and natural gas from shale or rock several thousand feet below the water table. The technology itself is several decades old, but it has been used increasingly in combination with improved drilling technology to utilize previously inaccessible energy deposits. The great news is that these immense deposits lie under American soil, putting energy independence within our reach.
Fracking has already revitalized the economy of North Dakota, which now boasts the nation’s lowest jobless rate (3.2%) and posted a record $1.6 billion surplus last year. North Dakota’s economy has outpaced every other state in the country since 2009, and it has been attracting workers from all over the country, some of whom had been unemployed for years.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.