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Support Drilling, Fracking, Keystone and Exports

Written by Paul Driessen

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We don’t need to restrict oil or gas exports. We need to open more lands to leasing and drilling.

The interminable war on drilling, fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline has taken some bizarre turns. Now it’s getting worse, as opponents grow more desperate, and the moon again grows full.

Deepwater drilling, 3-dimension and 4-D seismic (the ability to visualize 3-D over many years), deep horizon horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, and other technological marvels have obliterated environmentalist claims that the United States and world are running out of oil and gas – and therefore we need to switch to subsidized, land-hungry, job-killing wind turbines, solar panels and biofuels.

Thanks to free enterprise innovation on state and public lands – and no thanks to President Obama, who has made nearly the entire federal onshore and offshore estate off limits to leasing and drilling – US oil and natural gas production has set an all-time record. The world is on the verge of doing so, as well.

Long-running geopolitics have been turned upside down, as OPEC, Russia and other oil superpowers wonder what hit them. Plastic and chemical manufacturers, steel makers, bus and fleet vehicle operators, and now long-haul truckers are already cashing in on the natural gas bonanza. So are electric utilities, especially with EPA continuing its war on coal, with more unnecessary heavy-handed air and water rules.

Global warming / climate change hysteria is also foundering on the rocks of reality. Average global temperatures haven’t risen in 16 years, seas aren’t rising any faster than 100 years ago, and storms, floods and droughts are no more frequent or severe than over multi-decade trends during the past century.

Evidence and reality simply are not cooperating with IPCC and Mann-made climate models. “Trust the computer models!” the alarmists plead. “If reality doesn’t comport with our predictions, reality is wrong.”

The US State Department has (yet again) said the Keystone XL pipeline poses few environmental problems and should be approved, to bring Canadian oil sands petroleum to Texas refineries – creating thousands of construction and permanent jobs, and billions in economic growth and government revenue.

Unacceptable! rants the Environmental Protection Agency. “State underestimated KXL’s potential impact on global warming and needs to do its studies all over again,” says EPA. Never mind that oil sands production would add a minuscule 0.06% to US greenhouse gas emissions and an undetectable 0.00001 degrees C per year to computer-modeled global warming, according to the Congressional Research Service. Do it over, until you get the answers we want, demand EPA and environmentalist ideologues.

Some 70% of Americans and 60% of Canadians support Keystone – and energy security (and jobs) outrank greenhouse gas reduction as a national priority by a 2-1 margin among Americans – says Canadian pollster Nik Nanos.

However, haters of hydrocarbons, modern living standards, free enterprise and personal liberty are not ready to surrender. They’ve launched a blitzkrieg flanking attack. This time they are outraged that some Keystone oil could be refined into diesel and other products and exported! to Europe or Asia – while some frack-based natural gas might be converted to LNG and likewise exported! around the globe.

Well, yes. When US refiners transform crude oil into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, asphalt, waxes and petrochemicals, they ship some of these products overseas. Since Americans use less diesel than refineries manufacture (some parts of each barrel of crude can be converted only into diesel), refiners also export their excess diesel to Europe, which uses more diesel than gasoline, and Europeans ship their surplus gasoline to the USA, mostly to East Coast consumers. It’s a win-win arrangement that will be buttressed and safeguarded by Keystone pipeline transport of Canadian oil.

And yes, Cheniere Energy and other companies want to ship liquefied natural gas to foreign markets. It’s hardly surprising that anti-fracking activists would seize on this as yet another excuse for opposing this game-changing technology. It is hardly remarkable that Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) and other far-Left legislators would sponsor bills to block LNG exports.

What is shocking is that Dow and Huntsman Chemical, Alcoa Aluminum, Nucor Steel and other companies are joining the no-export campaign. They have convinced themselves that such exports will hurt their own selfish economic interests – and for PR reasons have packaged that notion into assertions that exporting any US natural gas is against America’s and the public’s economic interests. Nonsense.

America has barely begun to tap its vast shale gas and conventional natural gas deposits. It has not yet touched its methane hydrates. Together, these deposits will likely last a century or more. In addition, other countries are racing to develop their own conventional, shale and hydrate deposits – while still others will eventually recognize the folly of keeping their own deposits off limits. All this will gradually reduce demand for US natural gas exports, slow and prolong extraction, and keep gas prices low.

This interplay will also help ensure that more factories and power plants in more countries burn natural gas, thereby replacing coal and providing the economic wherewithal to enable China, India and other nations to install modern pollution abatement technologies on their now dirty power plants. That will greatly improve air quality and human health in countless cities, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions and reducing consternation among steadily dwindling numbers of climate alarmists.

American oil and gas development – and exports – will also provide an opportunity for our nation to “give back” to the world community for all the petroleum that our anti-leasing, anti-drilling policies have caused us to take from the world’s petroleum supplies for decades. All this activity will also spur further innovation in technologies to unlock still more energy. It will spur job creation, economic growth and government tax and royalty revenue collection here in the United States … and abroad.

Some 23 million Americans are still unemployed or underemployed; 128 million are dependent on various government programs, including 47 million on food stamps; and the United States is more than $16 trillion in debt. Unemployment in the construction trades is 14.7 percent. Black unemployment was 12.7% when President Bush left office; it soared to 16.7% by September 2011 under President Obama, and remains stuck at 14% today for black adults – and an astronomical 43% for black teenagers!

Drilling, fracking and exports can reverse these horrendous, intolerable, unnecessary statistics.

Misguided industrialists should stop railing against exports. They would do themselves and our nation far more good by putting their lobbyists and public relations staffs to work demanding an end to leasing, drilling and fracking bans that continue to dominate eco-liberal thinking, US energy policy (especially under the current administration).

Of 1.8 billion acres on our nation’s Outer Continental Shelf, only 36-43 million are under lease. That’s barely 2% of the OCS. Offshore territory equal to 78% of the entire US landmass (Alaska plus the Lower 48) is off limits! Even the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill cannot justify that.

Onshore, it’s just as bad. As of 1994, over 410 million federally controlled acres were effectively off limits to exploration and development. That’s 62% of the nation’s public lands – an area nearly equal to Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming combined. The situation has gotten progressively worse, with millions more acres – and vast energy, mineral and economic bounties – locked up in wilderness, park, preserve, wildlife refuge, wilderness study, Antiquities Act and other restrictive land use designations, or simply made unavailable by bureaucratic fiat or foot-dragging.

Drilling opponents claim to be protecting the environment. In reality, they simply detest hydrocarbons, modern living standards, free enterprise and personal liberty. Commonsense policies will rejuvenate our economy, put Americans back to work, and help fund government programs that Messrs. Obama and Reid profess to care so much about – while safeguarding ecological values we all cherish.

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death.

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