From making our morning coffee to riding the D.C. Metro, and whether for powering the computer screen or printing the paper which you are reading right now, energy is an essential part of our lives and ubiquitous in today’s economy.
Fortunately, Americans have a tremendous amount of accessible energy here at home, in good ol’ American soil. The Institute for Energy Research estimates that we Americans sit atop 1.3 trillion barrels of recoverable shale oil and more than 2 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas.
President Trump has indicated the desire to let U.S. energy producers (and consumers) more readily tap into this vast supply. He will meet resistance from those who insist on curbing the use of these so-called “fossil fuels,” claiming they contribute significantly to the threat of global warming.
The anti-fossil fuel warriors were ascendant during the Obama years. Policymakers introduced a number of domestic proposals — such as the Waxman-Markey bill and the EPA’s Clean Power Plan — to reduce consumption of these fuels. His administration also signed on to international pacts, such as the Paris agreement, with the same goal.
What these warriors continually overlooked was the collateral damage their policies would inflict on the U.S. economy. It is staggering.
At The Heritage Foundation, our analysis found that, by 2035, participation in the Paris agreement would produce an aggregate loss of $2.5 trillion in U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). That change works out to $20,000 of lost income for a typical family of four. Moreover, the changes in energy production necessitated by the pact would significantly boost household electricity expenditures.
What benefits would we gain in return for these costs? Virtually none. Our analyses showed temperature mitigation of less than 0.2 degrees Celsius and a reduction of less than 2 centimeters in sea level rise by the end of the century.
Why would so little climate progress be so expensive? Because the goal of the war on fossil fuels has always been to make them more expensive. Fossil fuels are, after all, the least expensive and most efficient form of energy currently available. The only way to keep people from using them is to artificially increase their price.
What would happen if Mr. Trump were to enable us to take advantage of the vast resources here at home? Energy prices would fall, and economic growth would accelerate.
Tapping into new pockets of shale oil and gas would create new jobs for the geologists, mathematicians, data scientists, engineers and field workers directly associated with the fracking process. Local business near the production fields would also benefit directly from the increased employment and paychecks of frackers.
The indirect benefits are as widespread as they are massive. As business energy costs decline, employers have more money to invest in workers — yielding bigger paychecks, better benefits and more jobs. Our most recent analysis estimates that if America were to stop the war on fossil fuels, it would increase GDP as much as $2.4 trillion by 2035 — pretty much the exact opposite of the results produced under the Paris pact.
Wage improvements and cost savings of this magnitude would be a godsend for families struggling to make ends meet. Meanwhile, the effect on global temperatures would be negligible.
Mr. Trump has already taken some steps in the right direction. His Energy Independence Executive Order deemed federal lands to be viable for fracking. Although there have been questions about the safety of fracking, a recent study by the EPA found that hydraulic fracturing poses no major health risks.
Because the American system of justice is so strong, proper enforcement of contract rights and the rule of law are the norm. Those who cause damage are held accountable, ensuring that the best and safest drilling techniques will prevail in extracting these resources.
Policymakers have a moral obligation to end the war on fossil fuels. Doing so will unleash American talent and ingenuity and grow the economy for years to come.
• A senior statistician and research programmer in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis, Kevin Dayaratna specializes in tax, energy and health policy issues.