America’s Energy Future is Bright, If Government Doesn’t Shut It Down

Published November 22, 2011

With the exception of our declining public education system, the single greatest obstacle to our nation’s future economic growth is a near-total lack of understanding of our vast energy resources. This lack of understanding is entirely avoidable, as the nation’s energy outlook can be reduced to a few simple facts.

First, there is no scientific evidence that the use of fossil fuels in our country has a negative impact on our climate. Our efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are foolish. A simple volcanic eruption will cancel a decade of effort in this regard.

Second, the laws of physics make it impossible to harvest the earth’s winds or the sun’s rays in an economic manner. 

Third, the United States is uniquely blessed with abundant energy resources—soon to be number one in oil resources and already number one in natural gas and coal resources. North America collectively dwarfs the rest of the world in energy resources. These resources can bring unprecedented prosperity to our great nation if government will merely allow energy production to happen.

We have frequently discussed the first two facts in Environmental & Climate News, and we will continue to do so on a monthly basis. Accordingly, let’s focus on the third fact—our nation’s energy abundance.

Peak Oil Theory Fails

The mountain of misinformation about our oil reserves has its roots in the musings of the late M. King Hubbert. With static rather than dynamic thinking, Hubbert predicted 60 years ago that the world would reach peak oil production and discovery in the mid-1960s, after which proven reserves would decline. When this did not occur, supporters of this fear-mongering premise simply began moving the date for his prediction forward every time it fails to happen.

Hubbert did not foresee the dramatic technological advancements that have allowed us to virtually peer inside the earth to find more and more oil, along with development of directional drilling techniques to capture it. As for natural gas, the United States is now the world’s undisputed leader in discovery and development, as a result of the relatively simple technique of hydro-fracking. 

Political Correctness vs. Prosperity

Today, however, our government is attempting to thwart our energy independence by blocking nearly every effort to develop our resources. An example of these obstacles is the stymieing of energy producers’ efforts to extract oil from the enormous Bakken formation in North Dakota. The economic prosperity brought by oil production has lowered the unemployment rate in North Dakota to just 3.5 percent, versus a national unemployment rate of 9.0 percent. Yet our federal government attacks oil production companies with environmental double-standards that are not applied to politically correct but economically counterproductive wind and solar power.

For example, the feds recently filed criminal charges against oil companies because a few common birds landed in pools of oil at North Dakota oil production sites and died. Meawhile, wind turbines kill 440,000 birds in the United States each year—many of them endangered species—yet the federal government has never filed any charges against a single wind power producer. 

The federal government aggressively blocks permits to drill new oil wells on government lands, even though the North Dakota experience has shown such production can pull the nation out of its ongoing economic doldrums.

Gas production from the Barnett shale formation in Texas has generated 100,000 jobs in the past decade, yet the federal government is poised to impose new restrictions on natural gas production from shale formations. The federal government argues such restrictions are necessary to prevent water contamination, yet EPA has yet to identify a single instance of shale gas production polluting drinking water.

Energy Prosperity, Not Poverty

America does not have to act like an energy-poor nation. We import half our oil because of the political decisions we make, not because we lack abundant oil resources. Similarly, we have abundant natural gas and coal resources that can inexpensively power our nation for centuries—if only the government does not aggressively block domestic energy production. 

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is science director of The Heartland Institute.