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DRIESSEN: Obama’s energy failures’ economic stranglehold

Romney’s plan is best hope for industry

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The latest job and economic data again prove that America needs more economic growth, domestic manufacturing, jobs and secure, affordable energy to power a renaissance.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says we can achieve this by unleashing American ingenuity, reducing excessive regulatory strangleholds and allowing safe, proven technologies to tap our vast onshore and offshore deposits of energy riches. He insists we can do so without sacrificing important environmental values.

President Obama continues to say the solution is more taxes and regulations to prevent ecological disasters, keep hydrocarbons off-limits and "fundamentally transform" our nation to depend on wind, solar and biofuel power.

Up until now, the Obama vision has led to countless failures, bankruptcies and layoffs -- bringing calls for more subsidies that are taken from hardworking, productive people and businesses and given by unaccountable bureaucrats to failed technology companies run by crony-corporatists, who then contribute substantial portions of this compulsory taxpayer largesse to the re-election campaigns of cooperative politicians.

The Romney vision, by contrast, has a track record of actual success, based on due diligence and voluntary private investments. Bain Capital brought us Staples Inc., Sports Authority Inc., Steel Dynamics Inc. and many other job-creating enterprises.

More recently, America's private-sector ingenuity, sweat and perseverance launched new technologies that ended the myths of "peak oil" and "imminent depletion" of U.S. and global petroleum. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, were developed by private industry, funded by private investors and tested on private lands. They did not have to depend on taxpayer subsidies, approval by federal bureaucrats or access to shale deposits on federal lands.

Had it been otherwise, fracking never would have gotten off the ground. The incredible oil, gas, jobs and revenue booms in North Dakota, Texas and Pennsylvania never would have occurred. Vast deposits of oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids would have remained trapped in shale rock formations deep below the Earth's surface.

Instead of costing $2.50 to $3 per thousand cubic feet, natural gas still would be more than $8. America still would be depending on foreign dictators for fuels to replace the oil, gas and coal Mr. Obama's Environmental Protection Agency is eliminating from our energy, electricity, employment and economic picture.

Instead, thanks to drilling and fracking on private lands, using common-sense state regulations, U.S. oil and gas production is increasing for the first time in 15 years, despite continued delays and moratoriums on federal onshore and offshore lands.

America is on the threshold of an economic, jobs and manufacturing renaissance -- fueled largely by access to abundant, reliable, affordable fuels and petrochemical feed stocks that will power factories, refineries and chemical plants, and help citizens find new jobs and pay their mortgages.

Plentiful gas from the Marcellus Shale formation has persuaded Shell Oil Co. to plan a $2 billion ethane "cracking" plant near Pittsburgh -- creating 10,000 construction jobs and 10,000 permanent jobs. Steel plants, electric utilities and countless other industries also will benefit from shale gas.

Citigroup Inc.'s "Energy 2020" report says the U.S. petroleum industry could add "as many as 3.6 million jobs by 2020" and increase the nation's gross domestic product "by as much as 3 percent," while generating billions of dollars in lease bonuses, rents, royalties and taxes for local, state and federal governments.

Fracking could bring new jobs and revenues to depressed areas in New York and other states. Expanded access to our newfound century's-worth of petroleum could keep prices low and reverse the flow of manufacturing jobs out of our country. Millions of recent American graduates and unemployed workers could have jobs. Current and future generations could enjoy new prosperity.

Moreover, the energy, manufacturing, employment and economic benefits will be unencumbered by worrisome environmental impacts. Hydraulic fracturing has been utilized safely since 1949, and has been carried out more than 2.5 million times.

Fracking fluids are 99.5 percent water and sand, plus chemicals that keep sand particles suspended in the liquid, fight bacterial growth and improve gas flow and production. Most additives used today are vegetable oils and common, biodegradable chemicals found in cheese, beer, canned fish, dairy desserts and cosmetics. Steadily improving technologies and techniques will further reduce water use and environmental risks.

Unfortunately, facts like these have not stopped anti-hydrocarbon activists in and out of the Obama administration. They are master fearmongers and propagandists, advancing their "just say no" opposition to North American fossil fuel energy. They use lawsuits, lobbying, fabrications and demonstrations to block drilling, fracking, pipelines, coal-mining and coal-burning, and countless other projects, while promoting subsidies, favoritism and exemptions from environmental laws for wind, solar and biofuel programs.

During his first inaugural address amid the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told America, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

Environmental extremists take the opposite tack, arguing that we need to fear just about everything. Giving in to fear and throwing more roadblocks in front of responsible energy and economic development creates far more harm than benefit.

It's time to elect a president and Congress that understand and encourage sensible, responsible North American energy and economic development.

Paul Driessen is senior policy adviser for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and author of "Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death" (Merril Press, 2010).

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