Did you know that we've got about 272.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas reserves in this country? That's a vast supply of an energy source that we can produce right here in the United States. Not only would this help lower energy costs for American families and businesses, the production would help create thousands of jobs and bring in much-needed tax revenue to states and counties.
Yet we don't use it nearly enough. So the question is why?
Well, it's not due to unpopularity. Natural gas is abundant and in high demand. In fact, according to ExxonMobil, the global demand for natural gas will increase by 60% by 2040. And it can't be due to its cost. As of March 2012, the price of a million BTU's of natural gas fell below $2.20. The last time natural gas prices were this low, oil was $20 a barrel. In March, it was $100 a barrel. Even if prices increased more than 50 percent like some experts think may happen and oil prices stayed the same, oil would still be more than five times as expensive as natural gas on an energy equivalent basis.
Some opponents have tried to claim drilling for natural gas by use of hydraulic fracturing contaminates drinking water. Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" as it is commonly referred to, happens when fluid and sand are injected into underground wells allowing natural gas to move to the surface. But that claim has been found untrue in studies by the EPA and the Ground Water Protection Council. In fact, the EPA has even dropped a recent claim in Texas that accused an energy company of contaminating drinking water.
So if the natural gas is plentiful, inexpensive for consumers, and safe to produce, why did the Institute for Energy Research report that in 2011 production of natural gas on federal lands declined by 6% from 2010?
Well, you have to look at the two magic words -- federal lands. President Obama and his liberal administration are doing everything they can to hold up production of natural gas on federal lands, essentially creating permatoriums on natural gas. Thankfully, private companies see the benefits of natural gas. Their drilling on private land has made this country one of the top natural gas producers in the world.
But natural gas doesn't just mean lower energy costs for consumers. It also means jobs. Look at the State of North Dakota. Fracking has turned the entire state into a boomtown with record low unemployment. In fact, it was just announced their unemployment rate is only three percent. That's dramatically low even in the best of times. At a time when our country as a whole is suffering from record high unemployment, how can we turn our nose up at an industry that is generating jobs left and right?
The answer is we can't.
I and my fellow House Republicans understand this and are doing all that we can to increase the production of natural gas. Just last month, the House passed H.R. 1231, the Reversing President Obama's Offshore Moratorium Act. This bill directs the Secretary of the Interior to make Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) planning areas that are estimated to contain more than 7.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas available for lease.
If we are truly going to adopt an all-of-the-above energy plan like the president advocated for in his State of the Union address, it absolutely must include natural gas. This cheap, abundant, and safe natural resource means lower energy expenses and more jobs. It's a one-two punch that we need to help jumpstart this economy and get Americans back to work.
This is my last edition of Power the Nation. I would like to thank those who followed the column. I will continue to do short-term columns like this in the future on important issues facing our country. If you are just now tuning in, I encourage you to visit my website to check out all of the Power the Nation columns.