America’s economy, manufacturing sector and energy security is poised for a comeback if Washington is willing to get out of the way and let a new fuel source once again lead us to prosperity: domestic natural gas.
There are major disagreements about how best to provide for the energy needs of America, but one area in which we should be able to find common ground is in natural gas. Natural gas is a safe, clean burning energy source, and America has the potential to produce as much of it for ourselves and the world market as the Middle East does crude oil. It also provides a cheap, abundant feedstock for the manufacturing sector, which helps keep costs down and allows companies to spend their money growing their businesses and hiring employees instead of on supplies. Natural gas can be the fuel that powers the 21st Century and create an entire new sector of good paying jobs along the way.
The Haynesville Shale, located primarily in Northwest Louisiana, has long been known to contain significant quantities of natural gas. However, because it is buried so deep in the ground and hard to access, it has never been economical or worthwhile to extract it. The recent development of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology has unlocked the potential for extracting this gas in places like the Haynesville, creating entire new industries and thousands of jobs almost overnight. Over the last several years, fracking sites have used less water and emitted less pollution than ever before, and the process continues to be improved. The overwhelming consensus among communities where fracking is practiced is that it has done no harm and created employment and opportunity for small American towns that have been hit hardest over the last decade of economic downturn. Still, like automobiles, airplanes, and other essential consumer products, the public and private sector will never stop looking for ways to improve the safety and reliability of fracking technology. While no technology can ever be completely safe, any problems that have arisen are taken very seriously and evaluated by business and government to make necessary changes. It’s the American way.
Business groups and environmental organizations obviously have different priorities, but natural gas can allow both of them to achieve their goals. For example, in the next few years, America will for the first time begin exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to other countries around the world. For the natural gas industry, this means more demand for their product, a win not only for them but for all those directly and indirectly employed in natural gas production. And for environmental organizations, they can be assured that as they continue their work on alternative energy, the energy being used in developing economies like China and India is from the cleanest fossil fuel possible.
We have seen that developing local energy resources is good for middle class Americans. For example, Texas, an energy rich state, is the fastest growing state in the country. In Louisiana, the Houma/Thibodaux corridor, the home of Louisiana’s offshore drilling industry, is at near full employment and looking for more workers every day. These communities have taken advantage of their local energy resources with tremendous results. As offshore oil is to Houma, natural gas is a resource that can provide that same opportunity for millions of Americans in hundred of communities.
It is time we embrace the possibilities.