An Energy-Rich North America
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A report from the Manhattan Institute’s Power and Growth Initiative sets the bar high for the potential from increased North American energy development. Author Mark Mills writes:
Expanding hydrocarbon production may be the single most important opportunity for near-term economic growth in North America and a beneficial resetting of energy geopolitics.
He argues that we have to change our energy policy mindset from the “idea of shortages and import dependence” to fossil fuel "abundance.” This isn’t the 1970s anymore.
New technology—hydraulic fracturing, directional drilling, powerful computers to map where to drill, and fast communications networks that tie it all together—is “unleashing the capability to efficiently tap into North America’s enormous resources of natural gas, oil, and coal” according to Mills.
Developing countries and the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) will continue down their path of fast growth. That growth will require greater demand for energy. Fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal) can best satisfy that demand in the decades to come, and North America is an abundant source, according to Mills.
Because of these trends, jobs are being created today, and will into the future. Mills notes two examples: development of the Utica shale formation could create 200,000 jobs in Ohio by 2015, and 22 proposed Utah and Wyoming projects could support more than 120,000 jobs. Along those same lines, earlier this year, the World Economic Forum found that oil and natural gas were the source of 9% of new jobs in 2011.
There are many instances of job-creating energy innovation occurring across the country. Mark Green at Energy Tomorrow linked to a report on a Philadelphia refinery staying open (and saving 850 jobs) because the new owners want to feed the plant with low-cost natural gas coming out of the Marcellus Shale. Green writes that shale development is “creating jobs (and saving them), reducing costs to manufacturers and helping them create jobs, reinvigorating the chemicals industry and more.”
In Ohio, Tom Blumer at BizzyBlog noticed something: The Buckeye State’s biggest counties except for two saw wage declines in the last quarter of 2011. In those counties, Lake and Lorain, oil and natural gas production from hydraulic fracturing was the reason they bucked the trend. Blumer also points out that counties in other states are experiencing the similar positive effects:
Counties benefiting from the boom in other states are seeing similar results. Average wages in Washington and Westmoreland counties in Pennsylvania, where Marcellus shale drilling is taking place, grew by 2 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively. The nation’s second-highest average wage increase of 5.8 percent came out of Maryland‘s Harford County, where fracking activity is also strong.
Of course the energy shining star right now is North Dakota which is seeing plenty of economic benefits from its oil boom.
Unfortunately, federal policy hasn’t caught up with the technology that has opened up vast North American energy reserves. Mills writes,
Vast tracts of hydrocarbon-rich resources are either entirely or effectively off-limits to development. Two-thirds of the enormous Green River shale formation is located under federally owned or administered land.
Also, red tape in issuing permits impedes energy development. Mills suggests that the U.S. look at Canada’s “one-portal, one-permit federal policy” as a way to streamline permitting.
Leaders everywhere talk about creating jobs, and the public knows getting more people working is imperative. America’s energy sector is a bright spot in a dull grey economy. Good policies will fuel (pun intended) its continued growth, allow us to tap into the vast energy resources below our feet, and create jobs.