Only a few weeks after anti-fracking activists gathered in New York City to protest shale development and natural gas – the very fuel that’s responsible for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States – President Obama, at a speech at Northwestern University, offered a pretty stiff rebuke, touting the economic and energy security benefits of American oil and natural gas production. As the president put it:
“Today, the number one oil and gas producer in the world is no longer Russia or Saudi Arabia; it’s America. We’re doing it so fast that two years ago, I set a goal to cut our oil imports in half by 2020 — and we will meet that goal this year.”
In addition to increased energy security, President Obama highlighted shale development’s role in revitalizing our manufacturing sector:
“Meanwhile, our 100-year supply of natural gas is a big factor in drawing jobs back to our shores. Many are in manufacturing – the quintessential middle-class job.”
Increased supplies of natural gas go hand-in-hand with a healthy manufacturing sector, which uses the fuel as a key feedstock. Abundant and affordable supplies of this resource have reopened closed plants and been a beacon for foreign investment. In fact, the United States is now one of the lowest cost countries to invest in. The jolt to the American manufacturing sector and the influx of previously outsourced jobs returning home has been one of the great bright spots in the economy. As the President stated:
“American manufacturing has added more than 700,000 new jobs. It’s growing almost twice as fast as the rest of the economy. And more than half of all manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time President Obama has touted the benefits of natural gas. In his speech on climate change in June 2013, he also pointed out that “We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions.”
President Obama’s comments are a reminder of how crucial the recent growth in U.S. oil and gas development is for our economy. And while some activists continue to push for bans on fracking, as a means of shutting down the U.S. energy sector, President Obama’s remarks show how truly marginalized that position has become.