By KEITH JOHNSON
During the 2008 campaign, Americans worried about dwindling
oil supplies, rising demand and skyrocketing prices. Today, a
revolution in domestic energy production has erased the supply
worries, and energy-industry jobs are a bright spot in an
otherwise-sluggish job market.
How to further develop America's energy potential stands at
the center of both presidential campaigns, and the question of
which candidate can do it better is likely to come up during
the debates that begin Wednesday.
Energy independence is the first point in Republican
candidate Mitt Romneys five-point plan to rejuvenate the
economy. He says unleashing domestic oil and gas production
could create more than three million jobs, shrink the trade
deficit and revitalize American manufacturing.
It will provide us with a lot of jobs in the energy
sector and in manufacturing because when energy is less
expensive, manufacturing will come home, Mr. Romney said
at a campaign rally last week in Virginia.
President Barack Obama, in
the second plank of the four-point economic plan he laid out at
a Virginia rally last week, also calls for greater domestic oil
production, and decreased imports of foreign oil. But he
offers much more support for clean energy as a way to
kick-start the economy.
We've got a better plan where we keep investing in
wind and solar and clean-coal technology, and where farmers and
scientists are harnessing new biofuels to power our cars and
trucks, Mr. Obama said, where we're developing a
100-year supply of natural
gas, where we cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and
create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
While Mr. Obama often proudly says that under his watch US
oil production rose to the highest level in nearly a decade,
many in the oil and gas industry say the president's policies
aren't fostering the boom.
Critics cite his refusal to approve the Keystone XL pipeline
to carry oil into the US from Canada and proposed new rules for
hydraulic fracturing - the technique credited with a boom in
oil and gas
production - on federal lands.
I believe that Gov. Romney and his team see energy as
a major stimulus for economic growth and job creation,
said Jack Gerard, the chief executive of the American Petroleum
Institute, a trade group, and a frequent critic of the Obama
administration. He cites North Dakota as a prime example of how
unleashing energy production triggers economic growth.
Mr. Romney's energy plan - and its projected benefits - draw heavily
from a March report by Citigroup titled, North America,
the new Middle East?
The Citigroup report painted a picture of abundant energy
and a rebounding economy, projecting that energy changes could
create 2.7 million to 3.6 million net jobs by 2020. It said the
transformation was already under way and wasn't premised on
changes by any future administration.
This is what we see happening, given no major shifts
in policy, said Eric Lee, a co-author of the report. The
report also backs conservation as a boon to the economy. An
Obama conservation effort, higher fuel-efficiency standards for
cars, has been attacked by the Romney camp.
Despite increased US oil production, gasoline prices have
remained high, with the AAA national average at $3.782 on
Monday for a gallon of regular gas. Mr. Romney says more
drilling could help lower prices at the pump. Mr. Obama
stresses fuel efficiency as the best way to take the bite out
of high prices.
One of the key differences between the Romney and Obama
energy plans involves federal lands. Mr. Romney has called for
oil companies to have much greater access to federal lands and
has advocated giving states the leading role in regulating new
oil and gas output on federal lands within their borders.
The administration has opened up acreage for oil and gas
production in areas where exploration has traditionally been
done - such as the central and western Gulf of Mexico - but
hasn't opened up more controversial areas for drilling, such as
the Atlantic coast or Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife
Companies see considerable prospects for new oil supplies in
federal land currently off-limits - particularly the offshore
parcels - but natural-gas output would be less likely to
Companies are already curtailing gas
exploration because of low prices, though they have
rebounded lately, and most of the new sources for gas lie on
private, not government, lands.
Dow Jones Newswires