Yes: Developing offshore energy means big wins for economy and security
President Donald Trump’s recent executive order aimed at expanding offshore energy development is a win for American job creation and security.
The United States leads the world in producing and refining oil and natural gas, adding stability to world markets that’s paying off for families and businesses.
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Drivers saved more than $550 at the pump in 2015, while households saved $1,337 on utility bills and energy-related expenses.
The industry supports 9.8 million American jobs across a variety of sectors, including manufacturing, which is experiencing an energy-driven renaissance.
Producers of steel, chemicals, plastics, medicines and numerous other products have seen their power-and-materials costs drop due to affordable energy, including industrial electricity costs that are 30-50 percent lower than those paid by foreign competitors.
Lifting some of the shortsighted restrictions that keep 94 percent of federal offshore acreage off limits to energy development could lead to production gains of more than a million barrels of oil equivalent per day and generate hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs.
For example, opening the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, which is close to existing production and infrastructure, could quickly spur investment and economic activity, with the potential to generate thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in government revenue.
The benefits of unlocking offshore oil and natural gas are measured not just in jobs and revenue but in energy security. Every barrel of American-made energy means more protection from the price shocks that overseas turbulence can generate.
Nowhere is energy’s central role in national security more evident than in the Arctic. With Russia and China already active in the region, the Arctic bears strategic significance even beyond its potential to supply enough oil and natural gas to meet California’s energy demands for close to 40 years.
In a letter to the Interior Department last year, military experts warned that withdrawal from the Arctic would “signal retreat, needlessly reducing U.S. flexibility for promoting our national interests and our ability to ensure international cooperation.”
Failure to take advantage of potentially vast offshore resources, whether in the Arctic or the Atlantic, could mean retreat of another kind — retreat back to an era of energy scarcity and dependence.
A new study shows just how costly that could be. The analysis from leading energy consulting firm OnLocation examines what would happen if government policy were to ban hydraulic fracturing, prohibit new or expanded coal mines, and stop permitting energy infrastructure, including pipelines and import-export facilities.
The study projects that steep declines in oil and natural gas production could lead to predictably steep energy cost increases — all contributing to a potential loss of 5.9 million jobs.
The average American household could see its costs jump $4,550 by 2040 due to increased costs for transportation fuel, electricity, home heating, and goods and services.
That’s not a future most Americans want. Eighty percent of U.S. voters support increased domestic oil and natural gas production, and projections show that’s what we need in order to meet domestic and global demand.
Even under the most optimistic scenarios for renewable energy growth, oil and natural gas will supply 60 percent of U.S. energy needs in 2040, and worldwide energy consumption will jump a projected 38.6 percent over the same period.
Our success leading the world in reduction of carbon emissions — which have reached 30-year lows in the power sector due primarily to clean-burning natural gas — demonstrates that energy security and environmental progress aren’t contradictory goals.
President Trump said he would focus on major jobs initiatives in his first 100 days, and he has. Forward-looking energy policy is jobs policy, and unlocking offshore oil and natural gas resources is an essential step to U.S. economic and energy security.
Jack N. Gerard is president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, the national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry. Readers may write him at API, 1220 L St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20005-4070.
No: Global warming must be addressed now
There are two enormous myths about global warming. One is that dealing with it is optional. The other is that the measures needed to slow the process will devastate the economy. Neither is true.
On the first point, we are already seeing major changes in weather that are almost certainly related to global warming, both in the United States and around the world. In the United States, we are seeing rising water levels eroding beachfront property all along our coast lines.
We are also seeing extraordinary conditions like the multi-year drought that until recently had much of California rationing water.
In addition, we have seen extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy, which destroyed hundreds of homes in New Jersey and New York and made many areas uninhabitable.
The story is much worse elsewhere in the world. The Sahara Desert is rapidly moving southward in Africa, depriving millions of people of the means to support themselves.
Hundreds of millions of people in low lying areas of Bangladesh and elsewhere in East Asia face far greater risk from storms and flooding due to rising oceans.
Global warming is a reality; we can’t solve the problem by looking away any more than we can deal with a weight problem by throwing out our scale and continuing to eat unhealthy foods.
Further, the idea that addressing the problem will devastate the economy is nonsense.
The price of solar energy and wind energy has plunged in the last two decades. Both are already competitive with fossil fuel energy in many parts of the country, even without subsidies.
Modest subsidies, coupled with modest fossil fuel taxes, would go far toward reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases. And these would hardly bankrupt the economy.
Most analysts believe that a $40 per ton tax on carbon would be sufficient to allow the United States to meet the commitments it made in the Paris agreement negotiated under President Obama. A tax of this size would raise the price of a gallon of gas by roughly 40 cents, not a negligible amount but hardly one that would devastate our economy.
And there’s a big upside to clean energy. The solar industry already employs four times as many people as the coal industry.
We need to both manufacture the solar panels and have people install them on the roofs of houses and businesses. This industry can be the source of hundreds of thousands more jobs as the industry grows and the technology improves.
The same story applies to electric cars. It’s great that we still have many good-paying jobs in the auto industry, but there is no reason that we can’t employ as many people — or even more — producing electric cars. Here, technology is also improving rapidly so these cars can be more competitive.
Addressing climate change should not be a tough choice. We can both sustain a strong economy and sharply curtail our greenhouse gas emissions. There is no excuse for President Trump’s environment-threatening executive order.
Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Readers may write him at CEPR, 1611 Connecticut Ave. NW, suite 400, Washington, D.C., 20009.