Some months ago, the Deseret News published my opinion regarding energy development here in Utah in relation to liquid natural gas (LNG) exports. At the time I noted the potential bonanza for our state in new jobs and additional state revenues if we were allowed to develop and deliver to market Utah’s own energy reserves.
That’s why it was good to read the Sept. 17 article in the Deseret News titled, “Report: Federal oil, gas policies cost West billions of dollars, thousands of jobs.” The article highlights a newly released report from the Sutherland Institute Center for Self Government in the West, which points to a missed opportunity in Utah as a result of unsound federal energy policies.
The report specifically says Utah’s “economy could add between about $1.2 billion and $6.7 billion and 9,400 to 58,000 jobs annually by developing oil, gas and renewable energy on federal lands within the state. Developing these resources could also contribute as much as $1.2 billion in annual taxes.” This study echoes studies performed in my home district in the Uintah Basin.
But that was not the only good news last week. The University of Texas released a study showing that methane emissions from new wells being prepared for production captured 99 percent of any escaping methane. That is about 97 percent lower than 2011 estimates by the EPA. Amazingly, the study was funded and lauded by the Environmental Defense Fund, one of the staunchest environmental groups around.
On top of that, the left-leaning Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) just released an “Investment Heroes” study, which shows that in 2012 the energy sector led all other sectors of domestic investment by adding more than $56 billion into the U.S. economy. So why would some politicians try to punish the leading industry in investing and creating jobs here in the U.S.?
Sadly, the federal government standing in the way of jobs and growth is an old story in the energy sector, especially under the Obama administration. Red tape, over-regulation and excessive taxation have plagued the American energy industry since 2009.
The KeystoneXL pipeline, if passed, will likely create thousands more jobs, bolster North American energy security, and enhance our nation’s critical energy infrastructure by bringing online the most advanced and safest pipeline ever built.
Opening up markets and building infrastructure to export American liquefied natural gas to global markets shows huge promise, as the new markets would boost demand, stabilize prices, create jobs and spur domestic production of natural gas.
Our own government claims environmental concerns in hampering domestic energy production, yet U.S. energy producers show far more respect for the environment than other world producers. There are plenty of nations that would welcome the U.S. as an alternate fuel supplier instead of more hostile nations. Yet we seem committed to propping up any oil and gas producers but our own. That makes no sense.
If the president and others embrace policies and projects such as these, jobs and revenues can continue to grow. If he continues to delay — or if he continues to return to tired and punitive proposals to tax more heavily the oil and gas industry, removing critical business deductions and making it more difficult for them to create jobs — then we risk missing an historic opportunity to see a real economic recovery.
Today our energy policies seem to stem from a culture in Washington that cares more about creating new rules and regulations than it does about creating new jobs. This attitude baffles anyone truly interested in growing the economy or helping one of the 11.3 million unemployed Americans looking for work.
Kevin Van Tassell is senator of District 26.