An Aug. 19 USA Today editorial concludes with: "the most important gains could come from radical shifts that are as unanticipated as was North America's emergence as an oil and gas powerhouse." It points out "that free enterprise has a way of solving problems that is beyond the capabilities of government." And continues: "The surge in domestic oil and gas production -- spurred on by such new techniques as hydraulic fracturing (or 'fracking') did not come about as the result of government energy polices, but largely in spite of them."
Other oil producing countries are taking note.
Mexico has huge oil-and-gas reserves -- estimated at 115 billion barrels of oil equivalent, comparable to Kuwait's -- but lacks the technology to develop non-conventionals, such as shale gas and deep-sea crude. Mexico is looking at reforms that would allow foreign companies to partner with the state-owned oil company, Pemex, to bring the wealth to the surface.
The Saudi Prince Alwaleed recently warned: "the kingdom's oil-dependent economy is increasingly vulnerable to rising U.S. energy production." Penned before Mexico announced its intended energy reforms, the Prince is likely increasingly nervous.
The reality of North America becoming an "oil-and-gas powerhouse" threatens more than just OPEC nations. In response to the USA Today editorial, Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), wrote an "opposing view" proclaiming: "Increasing domestic oil and gas production is no panacea for our nation's energy needs or economy."
Energy and the Economy
Apparently, she is not aware that regions with oil-and-gas development have some of the lowest unemployment in the country--states with resource extraction such as Texas, Montana, Oklahoma, and Wyoming all have unemployment rates below the national average and North Dakota has the lowest in the country at 3.9%. My home state of New Mexico shares the rich Permian Basin with Texas. There, they tell me: "Anyone who can pass a drug test can get a job."
Due to the increasing domestic resource development, President Obama's stated 2010 goal of doubling exports by 2015 has already been met--though not through his initiatives.
Next, Beinecke states: "U.S. oil production may be up 44% since 2008, but so are prices. The costs of crude oil have risen 6% in that time." While this claim appears to be accurate on the surface, it ignores the fact that the Federal Reserve has driven the value of the dollar down. Paul Streitz, in American Thinker, draws the connection between our national debt and the price of oil: "Excessive spending means monetizing our debt, which means printing money, which means foreign oil producers want more of it for the same barrel of oil."
Of course, Beinecke resorts to the environmentalists' standard claim: "The fracking that is driving our oil and gas surge has grown at breakneck speed." She continues: "states have responded with weak rules and limited enforcement." Environmental groups, like Beinecke's NRDC, want federal government to add regulation on fracking -- which will increase the cost and slow the growth of drilling.
Environmentalists' hyperbole about the use of hydraulic fracturing would lead the general public to believe that the practice is new. In fact, it has been successfully used for more than 60 years -- and, over the decades, it has been refined and made giant technological leaps. Attempts to link fracking to water contamination have repeatedly been disproven.
Then her "opposing view" takes the climate change tack: "more oil and gas production will only exacerbate climate change … Last year alone, Americans suffered $140 billion in crop losses, wildfires, storm damage and other impacts of extreme weather made worse by climate change." Once again, baseless charges.
The $140 billion in crop losses pertains to the 2012 drought, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Drought Task Force, said, in a report, dated March 20, 2013: "natural variations in weather patterns caused this sudden 'flash drought,'" and "The report rules out … human-induced climate change."
Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr., from the University of Colorado, at a Senate hearing, recently testified to the effect that Weather Related Disaster losses globally as a percentage of GDP had actually decreased by about 25 percent since 1990, while droughts have "for the most part, become shorter, less frequent, and cover a smaller portion of the U S over the last century."
The wildfires Beinecke mentions are connected to the drought and add drama to her comments as we are currently fighting wildfires in 11 western states. However, the true blame falls squarely on the forest management plans as enacted by the U.S. Forest Service, which has allowed the forests to be overgrown, unused, and unhealthy. The title of Beinecke's USA Today post is: "More oil and gas ups our addiction." In reality, the true addiction is the clean energy she touts. Alternative energies such as wind, solar and biofuels are addicted to government money and the junkies' dealers are those with close ties to President Obama and other high ranking Democrats engaged in crony corruption.
Let's give the Saudi prince something to really worry about. Let free enterprise solve problems that are beyond the capabilities of government. Let's build the Keystone pipeline and work with Mexico to use techniques, perfected in America's oil fields, to bring its wealth to the surface. North America can be an oil-and-gas powerhouse--but government energy polies have to change. Then jobs will be created and prosperity can be restored.
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).