Gas: the Simple Answer to Energy & Economy

The simple answer to our energy challenges & our lackluster economic performance are the vast energy reserves in gas and oil that new technologies have recently made available to us right here in America. This will even help keep us safer, since bad guys control much of the exportable oil and gas outside North America; the less we give them the better.

First let’s talk about our biggest challenge. Overcoming the old-fashioned ideas we learned in the 1970s. These were pessimistic times of shortages. Experts used pseudo-science terms like “peak oil” that frightened and impressed the credulous. Many thought up plans to “manage our decline.” We have less, they told us. President Jimmy Carter put on his sweater and told us to get used to it. 

The pessimists were right in the short term given their unimaginative straight line projections of resources used, obtained & projected. But they lacked the capacity to understand innovation or when they did they thought only in terms of big government investments and a managed energy economy. 

So let’s dispense with that. All those energy challenges that defeated Jimmy Carter and perplexed the pessimists have been overcome by human ingenuity. We have access to more oil and natural gas than we did in 1980 and it seems like we will have even more in the future. In the 1970s, government regulators controlled the price of natural gas and then outlawed the building of new power plants that used that clean fuel. This was logical based on their flawed information. As far as they thought, we ran out of natural gas about ten years ago and we would have, had we listened to those experts.

Supposed shortages of gas and oil playing into the world-view of some folks and they will scream when I assert they were way wrong, but they were/are. What we have today is far beyond any best-case energy scenario envisioned by the luddites of the 1970s.

Business Week has a cover story about natural gas and how it could bring the economy out of the doldrums. Cheap AMERICAN energy supplies would provide a real stimulus to the economy, one that will produce tax revenue rather than add to our debts. There are some environmental challenges, but fewer than with any of the other forms of energy we currently use on a large scale. They can be managed. 

The creation of a whole new world of energy using gas is a heroic story of individuals and small firms fighting against the experts, Federal regulators and powerful interests in places like the coal industry. They also had to fight the ridicule of experts who said that it could never be done. It is a story that shows exactly why big government programs in energy fail and often cause harm. They were going to do what they said couldn’t be done. And they did. Maybe that is why so many people STILL don’t get it. 

So let’s sum up. Technological advances have “created” vast new supplies of American natural gas that can stimulate millions of American jobs. The extraction and consumption of this fuel is more ecologically benign than any of the forms of energy it is likely to replace.  Similar technological advances have made available vast amounts of oil in Canada, but also in places like North Dakota, whose economy is booming with full employment. This will give us a North American alternative to oil from unstable places in the Middle East or Africa. So what do we do? We dither and oppose the infrastructure that will bring it to us. 

There may be no easy answers, but there are simple answers. The simple answer is to just say yes to inexpensive, available American energy, which will create American jobs, improve the quality of our air and help us pull free of the doldrums in our economy. What are we waiting for?

I have been noticing this for years. It just keeps getting better.