natural gasPresident Obama’s State of the Union message clearly indicated he understands the role domestic oil and natural gas development creating jobs and lifting the economy. Now, will he act? Will he do things to help foster an array of benefits the oil and natural gas industry can provide our country? Let’s go over what we heard Tuesday night.

The Deficit

The president: “Our work must begin by making some basic decisions about our budget – decisions that will have a huge impact on the strength of our recovery. … We are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances. Now we need to finish the job. And the question is, how?"

Answer: Increase access to public oil and natural gas reserves – onshore and offshore. According to Wood Mackenzie, more drilling could produce nearly $127 billion in additional revenue for government by 2020 and more than $800 billion by 2030.

The administration should open federal lands to development, including the 1002 area within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. API Executive Vice President Marty Durbin:

The administration “could increase access for safe and responsible development of our oil and natural gas resources on federal lands and waters, and do more to streamline permitting and leasing in these areas. Eighty-three percent of federal land and offshore areas are still off limits to oil and natural gas development. And while such development on state and private lands has led to an overall increase in U.S. production, on federal lands and waters production is down.”

Jobs/economy

The president: “A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. Every day, we should ask ... How do we attract more jobs to our shores? … Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.”

Observation: The oil and natural gas industry currently supports more than 9 million jobs and was one of the few industries that created jobs and grew the economy throughout the recent economic downturn. We can do more. Approval of the Keystone XL pipeline would create 20,000 new jobs right away and be an integral part of significant U.S. job creation associated with development of Canadian oil sands. The shovel-ready project awaits the go-ahead from the president.

Meanwhile, development of unconventional oil and natural gas – energy from shale and tight rock formations recovered with hydraulic fracturing – supports 1.7 million jobs and will grow to 3 million by the end of the decade, according to an IHS study. With the right policies, the oil and natural gas industry could create more than 1.4 million additional jobs by 2030 and add to the economic stimulus it already provides. Durbin:

“The U.S. oil and natural gas industry invested $545 billion in the U.S. economy last year – an economic stimulus plan that happens every year, doesn’t require an act of Congress and doesn’t cost taxpayers. … We are an innovative, high-technology industry that stands ready to create more well-paying jobs, further grow the economy, enhance our energy security and provide significant revenue at all levels of government.”

Energy/environment

The president called for action on climate change and lauded the part that growth in natural gas use has played in making our air cleaner: “That’s why my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.”

Response: The president’s commitment on oil and natural gas permitting certainly is welcome. This will help advance the ongoing renaissance in American energy production, largely driven by shale resources. Worth noting is that natural gas is a leading factor in the reduction of U.S. carbon emissions to 1992 levels. In fact, we're leading the world in emissions reduction.  No legislation, no programs. The credit belongs to technology innovation, vast shale reserves and the private energy market working as it should.

Opportunity

The president: “Let's also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it's virtually impossible to get ahead. … And that is why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.”

Agreement: Thanks to oil and natural gas development, this already is happening. Huge swaths of Pennsylvania, Texas and North Dakota have seen job creation and broader economic growth due to energy activity. North Dakota’s unemployment rate is 3.2 percent, less than half the national rate, largely because of development in the Bakken shale. Areas in Pennsylvania that once fit the description the president used Tuesday night are flourishing because of natural gas development. Ohio is poised to see the same dynamic at work in its Utica shale region. That same dynamic also could transform New York’s struggling Southern Tier region – if officials decide to lift that state’s hydraulic fracturing ban.

Yes, Mr. President, oil and natural gas can be an economic and energy game-changer for our country. With the right vision and leadership, our industry can create more jobs and generate more revenues for governments. API President and CEO Jack Gerard:

“President Obama recognized the oil and natural gas industry as a robust economic engine that is investing in American jobs, generating billions of dollars for the government each year, and making our country more energy secure. Even with the aggressive expansion of renewable and alternative energy, oil and natural gas will continue to provide the majority of the energy necessary to heat our homes, run our businesses, and fuel our cars for decades to come.  We’re going to need all sources of energy to fuel a growing economy. … President Obama must follow through by implementing a national energy policy, lifting existing restrictions in support of responsible development of our vast energy resources, approving the Keystone XL pipeline, and standing up against unnecessary and burdensome regulations that chill economic growth.”

The way is clear. The choices are clear. Time to follow through.