In America’s struggling economy, fossil fuel production stands out as a bright spot. Currently, 9,000,000 Americans work in the oil and natural gas industry, and another 550,000 Americans work in coal mining. Wages for these jobs are well above average, and production of fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, is booming in places like North Dakota.
The economic gains being made now have the potential to be long-lasting; the United States has the largest reserves of fossil fuels—oil, coal, and natural gas—in the world. (See Table 1.) These gains, however, are threatened by unfriendly energy policy from Washington. President Barack Obama and his allies in Congress continue to block fuel production on federal lands and offshore, have stopped a pipeline project that would increase North American–sourced petroleum products, are severely limiting coal production, and continue to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2).
The left has argued for decades that using fossil fuels is bad for the country. Initially, their concerns involved direct public health concerns such as oil spills, mercury, and other toxic pollutants. Their attack on fossil fuels has increased in recent years because fossil fuels are by far the biggest contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), thought by some to lead to global warming. To limit GHG emissions, President Obama pushed a cap-and-trade energy bill in the 111th Congress that passed the House but was halted in the Senate. The President is now moving full speed ahead with regulation of GHGs by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Air Act.