Energy Independence, Jobs Within Reach

June 21, 2011 - 4:01 AM

Fuel prices got you down? Need a job? Well, prepare to unlearn everything you’ve learned about domestic energy production. Don’t ever let another green “warmer” tell you, “We can’t drill our way out of this mess.” That’s a lie.

Contrary to environmentalist talking points, we know that by conservative estimates, the United States enjoys three times the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. Additionally, we have enough natural gas reserves to last nearly a century. Let that sink in.

Developing these resources could create nearly a million jobs and pump revenue into a desperately deflated economy. Imagine an America no longer forced to rely for our key energy supplies upon those who would just as soon see us dead.

If President Obama and the alarmist green lobby would simply get out of the way, we even might use our wealth of resources as a bridge to cleaner, renewable energy sources, creating jobs and boosting the economy along the way. Everyone wins.

Consider that according to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are as many as 1.8 trillion recoverable barrels of oil in the Green River Formation in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming alone. This is in the form of oil shale - organic-rich rock from which oil and gas can be extracted.

A more conservative estimate by the Rand Corp. puts it at 800 billion barrels. To put this in perspective, the United States has 75 percent of the world’s oil shale, and those 800 billion barrels represent more than three times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia.

The Rand study, conducted in 2005, predates recent advances in shale-oil extraction, including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking). These are revolutionizing oil and gas production.

Environmentalist naysayers simply have it wrong. It won’t take decades to tap this oil. In fact, we can produce enough oil to free ourselves entirely from foreign oil imports in the next 10 years. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) supplies more than a third of our oil. Why? We have all we need and more.

Yet Mr. Obama fatalistically projects that via a combination of natural gas use and oil drilling, we can only reduce our foreign oil imports by one-third by 2025. In reality, we can reduce them by half in just five years.

Still, in his trademark fashion, this president says one thing and does another. He has aggressively rescinded policies enacted by his predecessor to encourage drilling, making it extremely difficult for independent companies to get leases on federal lands, where roughly 65 percent of this oil lies. This means fewer jobs, greater foreign fuel dependency and a weaker economy.

Natural gas is another part of the solution. It’s a cheap, clean-burning fuel source, and according to a 2010 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study, it lies within our borders in 92 years’ worth of rich abundance.

Here’s the problem: Most of this natural gas is accessible only via fracking. In Colorado, for example, 90 percent of gas wells require fracking. The technique, which occurs thousands of feet below ground, involves pumping a solution of water, sand and .5 percent lubricating chemicals at high pressure to create cracks in the rock that will allow oil and gas to flow out and be collected.

Yet, where free-market innovation and progress occur, Berkeley-type liberals are sure to tread. A huge anti-fracking lobby has emerged, asserting - against all the evidence - that fracking is harmful to the environment (mustn’t disturb the Sugarloaf tree).

The lobby’s primary claim is that fracking contaminates groundwater - a claim refuted by Mr. Obama’s own head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, who recently admitted, “I am not aware of any proven case where the fracking process has affected water.”

Yet the anti-frackers demand that this clean, safe technology be banned or at least regulated into nonviability. When greenie activists say “jump,” Mr. Obama asks “how high?” His administration’s regulatory heavy-handedness has rendered 90 percent of this natural gas and oil inaccessible.

According to studies by Penn State and the energy consultant Wood Mackenzie, if the president would back-off the frack-off and allow those who actually produce something to use these fantastic new oil and gas technologies, more than 800,000 new jobs would materialize quickly.

Imagine an immediate need for natural gas vehicles and new natural gas power plants. Someone has to build them. Every drilling project stimulates the local economy as landmen, roughnecks and drilling crews fill hotels and restaurants and shop locally with their honorably earned greenbacks.

According to an ICF International study, the industry could produce nearly $2 trillion in government revenue as well through lease payments, royalties and taxes. Billions more would stay here at home that would otherwise go overseas to OPEC and other foreign oil interests.

Over the years, the left has successfully seeded major misconceptions about the “Big Oil” boogeyman. The fact is that hundreds of small, independent oil companies help supply the country with energy. They pump millions into the economy through private and government leases and royalty payments. They employ hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Economist Peter Ferrara, writing recently in Forbes magazine, observed, “While [Ronald] Reagan used to say that his energy policy was to ‘unleash the private sector,’ Obama’s energy policy can be described as precisely to leash the private sector in service to [his] central planning ‘green energy’ dictates.”

Mr. Obama, tear down this leash. Who knows - Brazil and Saudi Arabia might actually become two of our “best customers.”