Presidential candidate Mitt Romney understands that achieving this goal requires unleashing American ingenuity, reducing excessive regulatory strangleholds on businesses and working capital, and allowing safe, proven technologies to tap and utilize our vast onshore and offshore deposits of oil, natural gas and other energy riches. He knows we can do all this without sacrificing important environmental values.
President Obama fervently believes the solution is to unleash more taxes, regulators and regulations, keep our subsurface resources off limits, and compel a painful transition from hydrocarbons to wind, solar and biofuel energy. He aligns with and listens to environmentalist agitators who detest hydrocarbons, frighten people into thinking fossil fuel production and use will destroy the planet, and conceal the adverse health, economic and environmental effects of “green” energy “alternatives.”
The Obama vision has been an unmitigated disaster. Countless failures, bankruptcies and layoffs are matched by a need for perpetual subsidies – taken from hard-working, productive people and businesses, and given by unaccountable bureaucrats to failed technologies and companies, run by crony-corporatists who return the favor by contributing substantial portions of our compulsory taxpayer largesse to the reelection campaigns of cooperative politicians.
The Romney vision, by contrast, actually works. Bain Capital investments brought us Staples, The Sports Authority, Steel Dynamics and many other success stories. More recently, on the energy front, America’s private sector ingenuity, sweat and perseverance launched new technologies and discoveries that abruptly ended the myths of “peak oil” and “imminent depletion” of US and global petroleum.
Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, for example, was developed by private industry, funded by private investors and tested on private lands. It did not have to depend on taxpayer subsidies, approval by federal bureaucrats, or access to shale deposits on federal lands.
Had it been otherwise, “fracking” would never have gotten off the ground. The incredible North Dakota, Texas and Pennsylvania oil, gas, jobs and revenue boom would never have occurred. Vast deposits of oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids would have remained trapped in shale rock formations, thousands of feet below Earth’s surface.
Natural gas prices would still be above $8 per thousand cubic feet (million Btu), instead of in the $2.50-$3.00 range. America would still be looking overseas for fuels to replace the coal that the Obama EPA is effectively eliminating from our energy, electricity, employment and economic picture.
But thanks to drilling and fracking on private lands, under commonsense state regulations, US oil and gas production is increasing, for the first time in 15 years, despite continued leasing and drilling moratoria on federal onshore and offshore lands. America is on the threshold of a manufacturing renaissance – fueled largely by access to abundant, reliable, affordable fuels and petrochemical feed stocks, to power and supply raw materials for factories, refineries and chemical plants.
Plentiful gas from the Marcellus shale formation has persuaded Shell to plan a $2-biillion ethane “cracking” plant near Pittsburgh – creating 10,000 construction jobs and 10,000 permanent jobs. Steel plants, electric utilities and countless other industries will also benefit from shale gas.
Citigroup’s “Energy 2020” report says the US petroleum industry could add “as many as 3.6 million jobs by 2020 and increase the US gross domestic product by as much as 3 percent,” while also generating billions of dollars in lease bonuses, rents, royalties and taxes for local, state and federal governments.
Fracking could bring new jobs and revenues to depressed areas of Maryland, New York, Ohio and other states. Expanded access to our newfound century’s worth of hydrocarbon energy will keep prices low and reverse the flow of manufacturing jobs out of our country – providing jobs for millions of American graduates and unemployed workers, and creating a new prosperity for current and future generations.
Moreover, the energy, manufacturing, employment and economic benefits will be unencumbered by worrisome environmental impacts. Hydraulic fracturing has been utilized since 1949, and has been carried out more than 2.5 million times, safely and without causing any serious harm.
Fracking fluids are 99.5% water and sand, combined with chemicals that keep sand particles suspended in the liquid, fight bacterial growth, and improve gas flow and production. Most additives used today are vegetable oils and common, biodegradable chemicals found in cheese, beer, canned fish, dairy desserts, shampoo, and other food and cosmetic products. Steadily improving technologies, techniques and regulations will further reduce environmental risks.
For those still worried about catastrophic manmade global warming, natural gas emits far less carbon dioxide than coal. It doesn’t create waste disposal or radiation issues that have stymied nuclear power expansion. Unlike wind turbines, it doesn’t slaughter birds and bats. Unlike solar power, it doesn’t require blanketing millions of acres of wildlife habitat with photovoltaic panels.
Unfortunately, facts like these have not stopped peak oil diehards and anti-hydrocarbon activists in and out of the Obama administration. They have become master fear mongers and propagandists, advancing their “just say no” opposition to North American fossil fuel energy – and using lawsuits, lobbying, fabrications and demonstrations to block drilling, fracking, the Keystone XL pipeline, coal mining and burning, and countless other projects, while promoting subsidies, favoritism, and exemptions from environmental laws for wind, solar and biofuel programs.
During his first inaugural address, in the depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt told the American people, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Environmental extremists take the opposite tack – arguing that the only thing we have to fear is … just about everything.
We need jobs and renewed economic vitality. We all want a clean environment. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, industries of all kinds have made tremendous progress in reducing emissions and improving safety, efficiency and sustainability. They will doubtless continue to make further progress.
But giving in to fear and hysteria, and throwing more roadblocks in front of responsible energy and economic development, creates far more harm than benefit for our nation and its people. President Obama should stop catering to environmental extremists and join Governor Romney in supporting sensible, responsible North American energy development.