Washington Examiner Op-Ed: Natural Resources Hold the Key to Economy, Creating Jobs

February 8, 2011
In The News

By Congressman Lamborn

More than one in 10 Americans are currently out of work and struggling to pay their bills. Even though President Obama professes a desire to tackle the issue of unemployment, his administration seems to have forgotten the vital role energy plays in growing our economy. The United States has vast reserves of energy -- from oil and natural gas off our coasts to huge gas deposits onshore available through new technology to uranium that powers nuclear reactors and, yes, two to 300 years worth of coal.

America was built on abundant and affordable energy. President Obama's policy of locking up energy goes against what makes America great. His policies go against what he claims are his goals -- a thriving economy and jobs for everyone. Every facet of our economy depends on energy. Making it arbitrarily more expensive is guaranteed to cost more American jobs and cripple our economy.

As chairman of the House Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee on the House Natural Resources Committee, I will focus on policies to increase production of all types of American energy resources.

We must stop strangling energy production through overregulation. We must stop discriminating against certain sources of energy. And we must start considering energy jobs, which power our economy and pay handsomely as good jobs.

Few people know the true job impact of energy development in the United States. America's oil and natural gas industry supports 9.2 million jobs throughout the economy and is responsible for 7.5 percent of GDP.

From 2004 to 2007, the oil and natural gas industry was responsible for creating nearly 2 million additional domestic jobs. Nearly 400,000 people work directly in mining throughout the United States. Employment in industries that support mining, including manufacturing, engineering, environmental and geological consultants, accounts for nearly 1.5 million jobs.

The Energy and Minerals subcommittee also oversees the collection of royalties that companies pay the federal government for access to energy reserves on public lands. In 2008, the federal government raised more than $23 billion in these types of revenues.

Today, with oil prices at or near the same level, the revenue estimates for fiscal year 2011 could be as low as $7.5 billion, a decline of more than 60 percent. At a time of record national debt and federal budget deficits as well as high unemployment, it is critical for the subcommittee to review this decline.

To address the state of oil and gas leasing on federal onshore lands in the western United States, the subcommittee plans to hold hearings that will focus on leasing delays and declines in production from federal lands.

The hearings will address specific controversies associated with leasing in Utah, Montana and Wyoming, as well as the newly proposed policy that could restrict use of hydraulic fracturing on federal lands.

The oil shale lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management are the largest known concentration of oil shale in the world -- what the U.S. Geological Survey estimates to be the equivalent of 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil. If so, this resource would be enough to meet U.S. demand for oil at current usage levels for 110 years.

We need to reverse the uncertainty this administration has injected into the commercial shale rules. These steps have resulted in a significant decline in private sector investment and research on oil shale.

In the last year, there were significant concerns about the ability to obtain strategic minerals by business, industry and government sources. This is a serious national economic and security dilemma. The subcommittee should conduct oversight on a broad range of strategic minerals, including but not limited to rare earth elements, uranium and copper.

Finally, the subcommittee will conduct hearings into rising gasoline and oil costs and the impacts on family budgets, small businesses, job creation and our economy. We will review America's dependence on foreign oil and natural gas and the implications this has on our national security.

I know the president shares the goals of more jobs and a stronger economy. But he needs to reverse his attack on American energy if he wants to reach these goals.