While it may not qualify as a silver lining, there was one bright spot to emerge from Washington D.C.’s latest adventure in bad budgeting: A provision further enhancing our country’s expanding energy independence.
Championed by U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) the provision gives formal Congressional approval to oil and gas drilling across 1.5 million acres of the western Gulf of Mexico.
According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, this region is home to an estimated 172 million barrels of oil and 304 billion cubic feet of natural gas — resources that will further reduce our nation’s declining dependence on foreign oil.
Across America (and on its coastal borders), a domestic energy revolution is underway — one that is providing our nation with a genuine economic “stimulus” built on the free market pillars of innovation and hard work.
Even more encouraging, this victory is being achieved despite efforts by eco-radicals in Washington, D.C. to shut down energy production on federal lands.
In Pennsylvania the Marcellus Shale formation has produced 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas during the first two quarters of 2013 alone — enabling the Keystone State to become the third-biggest gas-producing state in America. West Virginia — another state accessing the Marcellus Shale — has rocketed into the top ten in gas production (even though the Mountaineers have drilled only five percent of all available Marcellus wells).
These gains — powered by innovative hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) techniques — are driving down energy prices nationwide and creating desperately needed jobs at a time when America’s work force participation has shrunk to a 35-year low.
According to a report released this month by the U.S. Energy Department, domestic oil production is climbing to levels not seen since 1970. And it’s projected to increase by an average of 800,000 barrels per day through 2016.
Natural gas production is also expected to expand dramatically — climbing by 56 percent between 2012 and 2040 to an estimated 37.6 trillion cubic feet.
All told, America will rely on imports for just 25 percent of its oil supplies in 2016 — down from last year’s 37 percent level. Meanwhile the world oil benchmark is projected to drop to $92 per barrel in 2017 — $20 less than last year’s average.
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Nathan Mehrens is president of Americans for Limited Government.