America's suddenly booming domestic energy scene could provide critical aid in bailing out the nation's fiscal woes, the chief of the nation's top business lobby said Thursday.
Thomas J. Donahue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, warned that it was "wishful thinking" to hope the Obama administration and Congress can compromise on a deficit reduction plan that features merely tax reform and spending cuts to meet a year-end deadline to avoid the dreaded "fiscal cliff." He said that tapping into America's domestic energy opportunities could make negotiations easier because there would be more money to work with.
"I'm telling you that if budget negotiators have to rely on just two buckets -- spending and taxes -- to control the huge deficits we're facing, they can't get there," he said in a speech to board members. "We need that third bucket -- and we've got it in energy."
Taking advantage of domestic energy opportunities could raise much-needed revenue for the government, all while creating millions of jobs, Mr. Donohue suggested. But he said the United States could miss out on the opportunity if the Obama administration does not adopt a more production-friendly energy policy.
A recent International Energy Agency report generated front-page headlines with a projection that the United States was on pace for surpass Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer by the end of the decade.
According to the chamber's Energy Institute, shale oil production has led to $237 billion in economic activity so far this year, of which $62 billion went back into government coffers. The natural-gas boom has created 1.7 million jobs in recent years.
By 2035, America's energy industry can double the economic impact and jobs created, as well as generate $2.5 trillion in tax revenue for the government, with unhampered shale development, the report found.
Furthermore, an American Petroleum Institute study found that expanding North American oil and gas development could create another 1 million jobs by 2018.
But many of these energy projects, including the Keystone XL pipeline, have been tied up by the Obama administration, Mr. Donohue said. They have been blocked by permitting delays and heavy regulations.
The chamber head called instead for a streamlined permitting process, more access to federal lands and offshore areas, and "sensible regulations."
"We can do all of this in a way that is fully consistent with our responsibilities to the environment," Mr. Donohue said. "Environmental reviews can be tough and rigorous. That's fine by us. But they don't have to take forever or be repeated over and over again."
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