A Visit to Boomtown
What will pull our economy into recovery? Contrary to the Obama administration’s dreamy pronouncements, it’s not windmills, solar panels, or other forms of “clean energy.” These heavily subsidized industries may eventually produce abundant energy, but that day is far in the future. For now, the 5 million “green-collar jobs” that Obama promised have not materialized, and the million electric cars he vowed to put on the roads are rarely seen.
What’s going to spark our economic recovery is traditional energy – that is, the proven energy sources that transformed America into an industrial powerhouse. As I explained on the John Batchelor show (listen here), I just returned from a trip to Williston, where I saw how oil drilling in the Bakken Formation - which stretches across parts of North Dakota, Montana, and southern Canada – has turned a sleepy North Dakota town into a bustling city. In Williston, the biggest employment problem is that they can’t get enough workers there fast enough to fill all the available jobs. Work on oil rigs often starts at $100,000 a year, and many other jobs offer higher salaries than I’ve seen anywhere else for comparable positions. Housing prices are skyrocketing, and the physical infrastructure is developing at a breakneck pace – the place is an absolute boomtown.
This is all enabled by horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracking, and other advances in drilling technology and methods. These innovations have helped boost U.S. oil output by 7 percent this year, the biggest jump since 1951. As the AP reports, “U.S. oil output is surging so fast that the United States could soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest producer.” Furthermore, “Increased drilling is driving economic growth in states such as North Dakota, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Montana and Texas, all of which have unemployment rates far below the national average of 7.8 percent. North Dakota is at 3 percent; Oklahoma, 5.2.”
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal finds that America’s recent surge in natural gas production is boosting our manufacturing sector. According to the Journal, “Economists at Citigroup Inc. earlier this year estimated that increased domestic oil and gas production, and the activity that flows from it, would create up to 3.6 million new jobs by 2020 and boost annual economic output by between 2% and 3.3%.”
This boom in oil and gas production is occurring almost entirely on private lands. That’s unsurprising – through its veto of the Keystone XL pipeline, its lavish funding of failing green energy schemes, the thickets of regulation it lays upon oil and gas drillers, and countless other incomprehensible decisions, the Obama administration has repeatedly shown a bizarre hostility to traditional energy.
As usual, we have to rely on the private sector. America could become the world’s indispensable energy producer, and hundreds – maybe even thousands – of booming towns like Williston could pop up across the nation – if the government will just stay out of the way.