Hardly a day goes by without somebody in government or the media complaining about all the jobs that U.S. corporations have moved overseas, or lamenting the loss of the American heartland’s once-mighty industrial capacity. Lost amid all the shouting and cursing is this fact: Thanks to recent advances in drilling technology, especially the use of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” and horizontal drilling, this nation stands on the threshold of an incredible industrial renaissance powered by the availability of immense supplies of affordable natural gas and oil harvested from the continental United States and its offshore dominions.
Fracking and horizontal drilling allow energy companies to tap into billions of barrels and trillions of cubic feet of previously inaccessible oil and natural gas trapped in shale and other formations thousands of feet below the Earth’s surface and separated from the water table by immense expanses of solid rock. Fracking has been used to drill more than a million wells in this country, and in the past decade it has found new prominence with discovery of major oil and gas deposits in West Texas, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and New York. In addition, ExxonMobil just announced a huge new find in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
These abundant, affordable energy supplies could revitalize domestic manufacturing in countless ways. As Nucor Steel CEO Dan Dimicco recently told the Wall Street Journal, the potential is so immense that “we could change the entire manufacturing base in the U.S. if we just embrace what’s happening in natural gas.” Plentiful, affordable energy supplies are a key factor in attracting new manufacturing investments in the U.S. that will create thousands of new jobs, bring back many that are now overseas, and generate the new growth so desperately needed to get the American economy humming again.
Unfortunately, there is a very big “but” in this otherwise tremendously encouraging scenario: President Barack Obama and many of his key appointees prefer to make the U.S. turn away from fossil fuels and instead convert to alternative energies such as wind, solar and thermal. Such a transition will come someday, but it will be at least three decades before alternative sources can replace significant portions of energy production now generated with fossil fuels.
Alternative energy advocates are pulling out all their propaganda and lobbying to greatly limit the use of fracking or eliminate it entirely. They’ve succeeded so far in New York, which has all but banned fracking. And they are making progress in Washington where the Environmental Protection Agency has commissioned yet another study of potential environmental hazards to drinking water. The EPA study was ordered despite the fact that EPA administrator Lisa Jackson conceded during recent congressional testimony that her agency has never found a single provable example of ground water contamination traceable to fracking. So the issue here is clear: Will American technology be allowed to generate thousands of new jobs and economic growth, or will alternative energy diehards kill the U.S. industrial renaissance in its crib?