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Oil, natural gas industry presents economic opportunity

  • Published Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, at 6:48 a.m.

One of the most-watched indicators of our country’s economic health is employment. Through the past several years of slow economic recovery, we know that the oil and natural gas industry has been one of the few bright spots in our economy.

A recent report shows the oil and natural gas industry supported more than 9.8 million American jobs last year. That’s 600,000 more jobs than the industry supported just two years earlier. The report from IHS also showed that oil and natural gas development increased U.S. household disposable income by $1,200 in 2012 – a figure that is projected to increase to $3,500 by 2025, due to reduced costs of energy and other goods and services.

The oil and natural gas industry supports jobs in all 50 states. In Kansas, it supports nearly 67,000 jobs and more than $3 billion in family income. In areas of Kansas where oil and natural gas are found, the industry represents a quarter of the jobs in some counties and 60 to 70 percent of the property taxes paid. The oil and natural gas industry is a dependable and stable element of the Kansas economy today and will be a critical part of the economy going forward.

It wasn’t long ago that some in America thought we were coming to the end of our energy options – that we faced a future based on scarcity of resources that meant rising prices and costs that could wreak havoc on our economy. Today, we face a far different future – one in which the U.S. is the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas.

This energy revolution is great news for every taxpayer, consumer, motorist and business in America. Game-changing innovations in oil and natural gas development are creating hundreds of thousands of jobs every year.

Furthermore, the availability of lower-cost energy has U.S. manufacturing poised to experience a revolution as well, meaning more jobs and economic benefit here at home. Reduced energy imports and increased global competitiveness of U.S. energy-intensive industries is projected to contribute $180 billion to the U.S. trade balance in 2022. The IHS report projects more than $2.4 trillion will be invested in the upstream oil and natural gas industry between now and 2025.

The American oil and natural gas revolution has generated a spectacular expansion of domestic energy production and has moved our country to a point where energy independence is within reach. For the first time in generations, America’s path to true energy security seems clear.

And if we get our energy policy right today, this could be just the beginning. We need policy leaders who will pursue sensible energy policies and will let science guide their decisions, not political ideology. And this becomes a problem when looking at the stark difference between the rate of new energy development on private and state lands versus federal land.

While oil and natural gas exploration and production on state and private lands has created thousands of jobs and improved our energy security, oil production on federally controlled areas fell more than 23 percent from 2010 to 2012 and is below what it was in 2007. The economic activity in the oil and natural gas sector is happening despite federal government action.

Comparing the job increases in the oil and natural gas sector to that of government-sponsored energy efficiency programs provides a comparison for policymakers who have sought a government energy management program as a means to create jobs. The comparison shows clearly that the private sector’s response to markets, investment and technology provides far more benefits than government dictates and subsidies. The job increases in the oil and natural gas sectors of our economy without government intervention dwarf those from heavy-handed Washington, D.C., edicts to the private sector.

Ultimately, it would be unforgivable if, based on flawed science or outdated assumptions, this country were to abdicate its responsibility to future generations by missing this opportunity to lead on energy and to put control of our energy future back into our own hands.

Thanks to our abundant natural resources and the technology we’ve developed to access them, we have the chance to be a dominant player in global energy markets and guarantee our energy security for decades to come. The benefits for American families, businesses, national security and our long-term energy security demand that we seize this opportunity.

Edward Cross is president of the Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association.

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