Should Obama press for more energy exploration?

Yes: We must remove the barriers on utilizing domestic resources; No: U.S. can jump-start economy by taking lead in green technology

Published: Friday, Oct. 9 2015 6:19 p.m. MDT

Workers move a section of casing into place at a natural gas well near Burlington, Pa.  (Associated Press) Workers move a section of casing into place at a natural gas well near Burlington, Pa. (Associated Press)

Yes: We must remove the barriers on utilizing domestic resources

WASHINGTON — Can increasing American energy exploration improve our economy? Yes, but more to the point, it's already happening.

Energy — and the jobs and growth it will drive — is the foundation for our economic recovery.

Our nation is blessed with some of the most abundant energy resources on Earth. Thanks in large part to the technology-driven shale boom, we have enough natural gas to power America for 120 years.

We also have at least 200 years of oil under our lands and off our shores and more than 250 years of coal. And that's just what we can recover with today's technology. With continued advancements, we will be able to access even greater domestic supplies in the future.

Our stagnant economy craves investment, and our nation's energy resources are a true economic engine of recovery.

According to a report sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Energy Institute and conducted by IHS, shale oil and natural gas development alone contributed $238 billion to our economy in 2012, and investments in shale reached $87 billion.

Shale development is also on track to generate more than $2.5 trillion in government revenues by 2035 — including $62 billion in 2012. As our nation's leaders look for revenue to drive down our high deficits, they must consider the significant contribution energy can make.

Energy spurs job creation in every state, and there's opportunities for much more. The IHS report found that shale activity has already created 1.75 million jobs over the past several years, with an additional 1.25 million coming by 2020. Beyond shale, an additional 86,000 jobs could be created by 2020 by building the Keystone XL Pipeline, according to a Canadian Energy Research Institute study.

Our nation can't afford not to move forward with oil and gas development. While job growth in the oil and gas industry has expanded by 38.6 percent since 2007, non-farm employment has contracted by 2.6 percent in the period. The unemployment rate would be in the double digits were it not for the oil and gas industry.

Energy can also help sharpen America's competitive edge in the global economy and improve our national security.

Thanks to our vast natural gas resources, electricity costs are falling and helping revitalize manufacturing in the United States. Industries are returning, plants are reopening and even some foreign manufacturers are diverting investments and operations to America, where low energy costs are becoming very appealing.

We can reduce the amount of oil we import, saving $200 billion a year, and become a more active player in global energy markets by exporting natural gas and coal. But we can't take this renaissance for granted. Industry needs a predictable and fair regulatory environment. Too often the federal government subjects energy projects to endless and duplicative reviews.

Such roadblocks have stymied vital energy projects that create jobs and revitalize communities. There needs to be a gut check on the number of regulations that are strangling so many of our energy resources.

We know that a competitive, 21st century energy strategy cannot focus only on oil, gas and coal. Nuclear energy should play a more significant role in providing us with clean, emissions-free energy through the next generation of nuclear power plants. Renewable sources like wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower all have an important role to play.

Energy presents the biggest opportunity to build a stronger foundation and a brighter future for our country. The 21st century has brought America an era of energy abundance. Let's make the most of it for the sake our economy, competitiveness and national security.

Karen A. Harbert is president and chief executive officer of the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

No: U.S. can jump-start economy by taking lead in green technology

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Abandoning fossil fuel exploration altogether is not feasible for America. But further government support of oil and gas drilling in places like the Alaskan wilderness or the American heartland in the name of economic growth would be a huge mistake.

Instead, for our national security, economic growth and a sound energy policy, what we need is to shift to promoting industries and technologies that focus on clean, renewable and alternative sources of energy. With continued sluggish economic growth, the U.S. has never had a better economic reason or opportunity to do so. As a Chinese saying goes, in a crisis there is both peril and opportunity.

Clean-tech is a global industry that holds the potential to fix our climate and other environmental challenges and build jobs of tomorrow.

A 2012 study for World Wildlife-Netherlands, by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, ranked the U.S. 15th in clean-tech sales relative to gross domestic product, with only 0.3 percent of our economy based on clean-tech.

Even if the United States is still strong in this area, it is not investing nearly as much as countries like Germany and China that have been betting on solar, wind and other clean technologies to lead their economies into the future.

Germany has had policies in place for decades that have resulted in the installation of somewhere around half of the world's solar panels in its country.

China, which ranked first at 1.7 percent of GDP in clean-tech, has not only become the global market leader in the manufacture of wind turbines and solar panels but also dominates overall global sales in clean technology. These countries stand ready to be a supplier of in-demand next-generation green technologies for the world.

If electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt or Tesla's cars, the cutting-edge fuel cell equipment of Bloom Energy, or other green innovations were to obtain the same levels of government support and consistent public policy direction as the fossil fuel industry, there would be little stopping American leadership in this industry. Isn't it time that we made catching up and moving into the 21st century a national priority?

California is an excellent example of what the United States has the potential to become. The Golden State enacted the pioneering 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, which sent unambiguous signals to the energy markets that the state is serious about combating climate change and that green technology will play a crucial role in accomplishing that.

California's new cap-and-trade program will reward the development and deployment of technologies that reduce carbon emissions because unused carbon emission allowances can be sold for a tidy profit. The state has also been at the forefront of providing financial incentives for green energy, promulgated green building code requirements, and set renewable energy portfolio standards for utilities.

Consider, too, the long-term human and economic costs of energy exploration: cleanup or recovery from pollution disasters or extreme weather caused by climate change.

The 2010 BP oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and the serious concerns raised about hydraulic fracturing and shale gas exploration have not merely been the results of chance. Nor are the extreme storms, droughts and heat waves, which are expected to rise in frequency and severity with fossil fuel use-linked climate change.

Achieving sustainable economic growth and promoting job creation must not boil down to extracting the last drop of fossil fuels at all costs. We must consider the long-term environmental and public health costs that come with it. The U.S. cannot afford to invest and lock itself into many more decades of reliance on the dirty and unsustainable sources of energy of the past.

Tseming Yang is professor of international environmental law at Santa Clara University, and a former deputy general counsel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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