Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Will the Energy Boom Create More Problems Than It Fixes?

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Will the Energy Boom Create More Problems Than It Fixes?

Article excerpt

In the interest of assisting the president, consider a pitfall he and the country must avoid if this period in U.S. history is not to be someday seen as when it all went wrong for the onetime greatest country on Earth.

Of course, given the clown-show antics that predominate in Washington and the complexity, volatility and risks that confront the United States in the world, the president faces potential peril almost wherever he looks. Rather than focusing on the country's more obvious problems, however, I'd like to look at one that is perhaps more worrisome precisely because it comes cloaked in opportunity: America's energy boom.

That's right: the boom. The technological breakthroughs enabling America to tap vast reserves of previously inaccessible oil and natural gas have been heralded as a bonanza for the U.S., not least by President Obama, who told everyone tuning in to his speech at the Democratic National Convention that "we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone." Analysts at Citibank are predicting that the U.S. will be the world's fastest-growing oil and gas producer well into the next decade. Great, huh? Not so fast.

You can understand the appeal, especially to America's dysfunctional governing class. That is precisely what is so worrisome about all the talk of how these new energy finds will literally fuel the country's next period of economic expansion. You heard it during the recent presidential campaign from both candidates. You heard it in a slew of reports from Wall Street and international organizations.

America is on the verge of energy independence. It will soon overtake Saudi Arabia as an energy producer. It will no longer have to worry about the messy realities of the Middle East. New boomtowns like those springing up in Canada and North Dakota will spread across the U.S. Cheap energy will attract foreign investment! Revitalize U.S. manufacturing! Help America beat China and India!

Here's the biggest problem with all those assertions: They are plausible. America's energy boost is possibly the biggest geopolitical change to hit the world since China's rise. …

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