When it comes to energy, Washington could learn a lot from North Dakota. Leaders in government and business have come together to safely and responsibly develop the state’s vast natural resources. As a result, North Dakota is at the epicenter of a shale energy boom and is reaping enormous economic benefits.
Oil production in the region has nearly quadrupled since 2005. Production in 2012 topped 700 million barrels per day. North Dakota has recently passed Alaska to become the second-highest oil-producing state behind Texas. The state also produces great quantities of coal, America’s most abundant natural resource.
According to a report sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Energy Institute and conducted by IHS-CERA, shale energy production in North Dakota supports 70,000 jobs and generates $4 billion in state and local revenue. Those numbers are expected to climb to 114,000 jobs and $6 billion in revenue by 2020. It’s no accident that the state has an unemployment rate of just 3.2 percent — the lowest in the nation.
America needs to follow North Dakota’s example. Our nation has more oil, gas and coal than any other country. We are the largest single natural-gas producer in the world. Not only can we use these resources ourselves to displace energy we currently import from unfriendly nations, we can also begin to reduce our trade deficit by exporting energy to other markets.
The abundance of affordable natural gas is also attracting good manufacturing jobs back to America. Over the next 20 years, energy can create millions of additional jobs spread all across this country and generate trillions of dollars in government revenues.
To achieve these great benefits, we need to open up new areas to exploration. We’ve foolishly locked away too much of our resources onshore and off our coasts. We need a predictable and fair regulatory environment. The federal government shouldn’t pick winners and losers or subject energy projects to endless and duplicative reviews. We should stop the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to ban the production and use of coal. And we should continue with the next generation of nuclear power plants and develop alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal.
By fully embracing America’s energy opportunity, we can accelerate growth, create millions of new jobs, lessen our dependence on foreign sources and create huge new revenues for government.
North Dakota is leading the way on energy. Washington would be smart to follow.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.