- - Monday, November 27, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Black Friday is the holy grail of retail, but there’s no day that the nation’s cup doesn’t runneth over with black gold. American oil and natural gas are flowing like rivers, poised to power the nation’s economy to new prosperity. Having just given thanks for the nation’s bounty, Americans are rushing into a high-octane season of gift-giving, with every reason to anticipate more prosperity in 2018.

The Christmas shopping season jumped off to a fast start with pre- and post-Thanksgiving commerce nationwide chalking up record sales. Traditionally of a day of great deals to put shoppers in the buying spirit, the traditional Black Friday has been stretched into Black Friday Week as marketers squeeze every minute into holiday spending prime time. All told, Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales topped $7.9 billion, up nearly 18 percent over last year.

It’s a bright omen for a holiday sales period that overshadows less glittery — but no less vital — predictions of more of the fossil fuel production that powers the U.S. economy. The International Energy Agency forecasts that the booming domestic shale oil industry will keep the United States a dominant player as a global energy supplier for many, many years to come. “A remarkable ability to unlock new resources cost-effectively pushes combined United States oil and gas output to a level 50 percent higher than any other country has ever managed,” says the agency’s 2017 World Energy Outlook.

The dark days of trembling at the mercy of hostile OPEC nations are over. The United States has been the world’s largest producer of natural gas since 2009 and reached a new milestone this past summer when it became a net natural gas exporter. The United States is on track to become the foremost supplier of liquified natural gas by the mid-2020s, and a net exporter of oil a few years later. It’s one way to make America great again.

All of this good news is bolstered by renewed cooperation with the energy-rich neighbor to the north. Last week Nebraska regulators approved a route through the state for TransCanada’s much-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline, a project that President Obama thought he had killed, but it was not left graveyard dead. President Trump has revived it. Even a breach in an existing branch of the conduit from Alberta to Texas that leaked 210,000 gallons of crude in South Dakota did not dissuade the Nebraska Public Service Commission from placing the nation’s energy needs first.

All this year-end joy is occurring amid new forecasts of faster growth by the U.S. economy. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York raised its projection of gross domestic product from 3.2 percent to 3.8 percent for the fourth quarter of 2017. Its counterpart in Atlanta bumped up its prediction from 2.7 percent to 3.2 percent growth.

The good economic news is not necessarily a “Trump effect,” but that hasn’t dissuaded President Trump from taking credit, tweeting last week: “Under President Trump unemployment rate will drop below 4%. Analysts predict economic boom for 2018!” Goldman Sachs economists envision gross domestic product at a more moderate 2.5 percent next year.

Plentiful oil and gas, with anticipation of tax cuts, could be just the mix that supercharges the economy and “fundamentally transforms” the effects of the plodding Obama years into a rousing sleigh ride. It’s enough to inspire a rousing chorus of “Jingle Bells.”

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