Main points from White House energy advisor Heather Zichal in an update of the administration’s positions on energy and environmental policy at an event this week hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies:
- Safe, reliable, affordable energy is the lifeblood of America’s economy and is fundamentally linked to U.S. security in the world.
- America’s energy narrative has been rewritten – chiefly due to innovations that have launched the shale oil and natural gas revolution – from one of scarcity to one of abundance.
- The administration’s chief economic goal is to create more middle-class jobs, and energy is and can continue to be a key driver of job and economic growth.
There’s much to like there. The question is how to sustain and accelerate America’s new energy momentum. Certainly, there is forward impetus. Zichal noted consistent gains in U.S. oil output under President Obama, even as the U.S. Energy Information Administration was announcing that U.S. production in November topped 7 million barrels per day (7.013 mb/d), the first time output has exceeded the 7 mb/d mark since December 1992.
Yet, sustaining and adding to the oil and natural gas production we’ve seen – the vast majority of which has occurred on state and private lands – will require forward-thinking policies and the kind of commitment to future domestic oil and natural gas development that befits the No. 1 engine of our economy and primary supporter of our modern way of life.
We need to continue developing solar and wind energy as well as biofuels. We need coal and nuclear. But we also must acknowledge, in policy and in actions, the key role that oil and natural gas play in America today, for the very reasons cited by Zichal – because they’re safe, reliable and affordable - as well as energy-rich. Safe and responsible development of oil and natural gas will help make the U.S. more secure in the world while generating economic opportunity here at home.
Increased access to domestic oil and natural gas would directly address the administration’s chief economic goal: jobs. Wood Mackenzie says a pro-development approach to access could create 1.1 million jobs by 2020 and 1.4 million by 2030, while generating cumulative, additional revenue for government topping $800 billion.
IHS Global Insight says development of unconventional natural gas and oil (from shale and other tight rock formations via hydraulic fracturing) will support 1.7 million jobs this year, growing to 2.5 million in 2015 and 3.5 million in 2035 – while supporting more than $5 trillion in cumulative industry capital spending by 2035.
Developing our resources and strengthening our energy partnership with Canada will make the United States more secure – by reducing other imports and asserting more control over our energy future. This must include approval and construction of the full Keystone XL pipeline and other pipeline projects to fully utilize Canadian oil sands resources – safe and reliable energy.
“We need to act, we need to put long-term policies in place,” Zichal said at CSIS, referring to renewable energy technology. Industry already is acting, spending $71 billion on carbon-reducing technologies from 2000 to 2010 – almost twice as much as the federal government ($43 billion) and nearly as much as the rest of private industry combined ($74 billion). As for emissions reductions, the U.S. already is doing it, thanks to increased use of clean-burning natural gas, reducing carbon emissions to a 20-year low.
We need to think long-term and act – to use the vast oil and natural gas resources here in North America that, combined with growth in renewables and other energy technologies will secure our energy future.