The sequester happened. Nothing happenedthough we all understand there will be impacts down the road. But, it didn't have to happen.
The sequester is the result of the cost of running the government exceeding the revenue. Washington only talks about two choices: raising taxes and cutting spending. But there is an overlooked option: creating new wealthwhich involves producing something of value which didn't exist before, but that someone will pay for, bringing new money into the system.
As a country, the cost of running the government exceeds revenue. The same is true for many states, counties, and citiesoften resulting in bankruptcy. Not every city, county, or state has the natural resources that provide them with the opportunity to create new wealthbut many do. Some choose to dig up the "pot of gold," resulting in a strong and viable community and government. Some choose not to and instead are back to the same two choices: raising taxes and cutting spending.
On January 10, I was at a county commission hearing in San Miguel County which has geology that leads the experts to believe that there's likely oil or natural gas under their feet. Several surrounding counties do have known resources and people who own the land and production companies are eager to explore to see if there is, in fact, a "pot of gold." As is to be expected these days, there is plenty of opposition, scaring folks with talk of supposed water contamination and other calamities.
The hearing opened with a Skype presentation from the executive director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. He stated that the group's goal was to stop or block production or to create so many regulations that exploration and development was cost-prohibitive. Next a parade of naysayers, with a sprinkling of supporters, addressed the county commissioners.
The commissioners really perked up at the testimony of two county officials from the oil-producing corner of the state: Greg NibertCommissioner for Chaves County; and Mike GallagherManager for Lea County. Both talked about the decades, during which fracking has been used in their counties, with only positive impacts: their schools are fully funded, unemployment is virtually nonexistent (anyone who can pass a drug test can get a job), and their economies are thriving. I could almost see the dollar signs rolling through the eyes of San Miguel County Commissioners like a slot machine spinning.
Nibert shared a resolution that the Chaves County Commission had just passed. The gist of the document said that the oil and gas counties of the state were tired of supporting all the other countiesespecially those that had resources, but elected not to develop them. The resolution proposed that the schools and hospitals in the counties with resources, that chose not to extract them, should not get the benefit of the counties that do.
That is New Mexico's story. But the theme runs through other states that are creating new wealth: Texas, North Dakota, and Pennsylvaniaall have a welcome increase in jobs and tax revenues. Each has low unemployment and a thriving economy. Contrast those states to two of the states hardest hit in this time of economic demise: California and Nevada. Like San Miguel Country, both have natural resources, but unlike the poor, rural county, the states' resources are known. While San Miguel is considering a drilling ban, the troubled states have an effective ban and a big part of their pot of gold is on federally owned land. Policies and regulations could prevent the states from accessing their individual pots of gold (Nevada has the Chainman Shale and California the Monterey Shale), which would create new wealth for local communities as well as state and federal governments. David Pratt, president of Santa Maria Energy, says: "the Monterey is California's way out of the "fiscal toilet.'"
"But alas," Matt Insley, a specialist on commodities and natural resources, says, "this is California. The political and environmental red tape in the state have brought energy development to a virtual halt."
The New York Times reports: "The oil companies' plans for the Monterey Shale are already drawing increasing scrutiny from environmental groups." Despite the fact that "oil companies have engaged in fracking in California for decades," Kassie Siegel, a lawyer at the Center for Biological Diversity, calls it "one of the most, if not the most, important environmental issue in California."
Meanwhile, people are leaving the state, houses are being foreclosed, and unemployment levels are the highest in the country.
Though less-widely reported, Nevada faces a similar opportunity and opposition. The Las Vegas Review Journal cites the federally owned land as "the greatest limitation Nevada faces in getting its resources to market."
As we've seen with the Keystone pipeline, it is expected that the greens will "put on a full-court press to block the project." Rob Mrowka, who heads the Nevada Center for Biological Diversity office, says: "Fracking is not a good thing. We don't feel there is a safe way to do it."
Insley believes "a change in tone from the political side" could fuel a turnaround. It is the politics and fear that is holding back a boom in new wealth creation. California Senator Bob Huff said: "It makes absolutely no sense."
Sequester didn't have to happen. Allowing development of our natural resources would bring welcome new tax revenues that could exceed the cost of running the government.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens' Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations' combined efforts serve as America's voice for energy.