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Tom Donohue: A New Era of Energy Abundance

This Thanksgiving, as American families count their blessings, we as a nation should also give thanks for what we have — an abundance of affordable, accessible and safe energy. It could revitalize America’s economy, create millions of jobs, help reduce our deficit and lessen our dependence on foreign sources.

Because of technological advancements, we can now tap vast oil and gas resources in geologic formations that were previously too costly and too difficult to reach. As a result, we have access to a 100-year supply of natural gas, and by 2020, oil production is expected to rise 68 percent above 2008 levels.

This is a game-changer. Until recently, we were spending billions of dollars annually to import foreign oil, which made up 60 percent of our supply just five years ago. Our economy was increasingly vulnerable to the whims of unfriendly regimes and disruptions to the global energy supply.

Today, the boom in shale oil and natural gas — as well as opportunities in other sectors of the energy industry — could transform our economy.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy recently sponsored a report by energy research firm IHS-CERA to assess the economic benefits of the shale boom — if policymakers don’t get in the way. Shale development has produced 1.75 million jobs over the past few years and could be responsible for 3.5 million jobs by 2035. Shale energy development will pump $237 billion into the U.S. economy this year and could generate $2.35 trillion in government revenues by 2035.

But we won’t realize the full potential of our energy resources without sound policy and prudent development.

Much of the recent progress has been despite the federal government, not because of it. Most of the new production is taking place on private or state lands — federal lands remain largely closed.

The private sector has driven growth by investing in new technologies. And the industry is working with state governments and the public to adopt best practices and strict environmental standards, and the states are effectively regulating energy development. But federal bureaucratic roadblocks, such as overregulation, endless environmental reviews, tax hikes and permitting delays, could halt new development.

America’s leaders must not squander this opportunity. That’s why the Chamber of Commerce is pushing for expanded energy development in any Big Deal that Congress strikes to address our fiscal challenges.

Yes, America has plenty to be thankful for. We’ve got all the elements for a new era of energy abundance — natural resources, technology, capital and an entrepreneurial spirit. Now, let’s adopt an agenda that reflects it.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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