America is blessed with the largest energy reserves in the world. According to the Congressional Research Service, the United States tops Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China in combined energy reserves - including oil, coal, and natural gas.
In fact, according to most experts, part of the world's largest deposit of natural gas lies right beneath our feet here in Eastern and Southeastern Ohio. It's comprised of the Marcellus Shale and the Utica Shale, and it has the potential of bringing a tremendous economic boom to our area. Exploration of this expansive natural resource is a game changer for Ohio, not only for energy development and independence but for job creation. A recent study found that more than 200,000 jobs are expected to come to Ohio in the future as a result of the Marcellus and Utica Shales. If that's not the path to economic prosperity, I don't know what is.
But, the direct job opportunities derived from natural gas development aren't isolated to simply harvesting the resource. They also include housing, retail, entertainment, and other manufacturing and service sector support functions necessary to sustain the industry. This a new, emerging chapter in the type of American innovation and exceptionalism that has defined America's national character. I remember another such era in America's history ... I bet many of you will remember it, too.
It was called the "Space Race," and it began in the early 1960s. President John F. Kennedy made it America's national vision to land a man on the moon in 10 years. It was an ambitious mission that gave our nation focus, and fostered an 'all in' camaraderie that we are sorely lacking today. The mission engaged our academic community, the business community, our political leaders on both sides of the aisle, government agencies, and even our military. Imagine that! Government agencies working with the private sector, rather than against it. And, guess what? It didn't take 10 years. Neil Armstrong took that "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" in seven years.
Just as important are the many modern technological conveniences that the world enjoys today - technological advances born right here in America as a result of the research and development fostered by the space race. We saw industries crop up around space exploration. We saw millions of jobs created. Cell phones, flat screen televisions, computers and the GPS systems that many of us have in our cars are direct results of American innovation from the space race. That was American exceptionalism at work.
And, we have the opportunity to see that kind of national excitement again. Because, much like the space race, we are on the cusp of new energy innovations and opportunities with the development of natural gas and oil in the Marcellus and Utica Shales. But to capitalize, we must keep federal government agencies like the EPA and the Department of the Interior from blocking progress. Think about what would happen if the president of the United States said something like this to the American people and the rest of the world:
"Today, we are drawing a line in the sand. Starting right now, America is no longer going to stand at the back of the line when it comes to energy independence. Over the next decade, the United States of America is establishing a national mission to become energy independent and secure. We will no longer be beholden to foreign sources for our energy. We're going to develop America's own natural resources. We're going to drill for the approximately three trillion barrels of oil we already own; we're going to develop America's vast natural gas reserves; we're going to continue to mine coal, because it is currently providing the bulk of America's energy needs, and with renewed research and development we will learn to use it in cleaner and more efficient ways; we're going to expand our nuclear footprint because it's one of the cleanest and most reliable forms of energy; and, we're going to find out where alternative forms of energy like wind and solar fit into our overall energy profile. But, we're not going to sit on the sidelines - instead, we're going to put action behind the vision so that the wheels of American ingenuity and innovation can begin to turn again. If it's not a public safety, public health, or national security issue, I'm asking our regulatory agencies to immediately remove unnecessary regulatory burdens and pave the way forward. And, with a robust private sector focused on advancing new energy technologies working side by side with a cooperative federal government that promotes a pro-business environment, America will succeed."
I truly believe that if we set goals like these, the American innovative spirit would be unleashed and prosperity would result. History tells us this is so.
With any major growth and development, there are challenges that must be met and decisions to be made to protect the public good. It is critically important that the big energy companies that have already set up shop in eastern and southeastern Ohio as well as those on the way put Ohio back to work - jobs for Ohioans, filled by Ohioans. It's also important that Ohioans who choose to lease their land are treated fairly, with their rights protected by law. These are some of my priorities.
Our state and our nation stand at a crossroads. History has shown that when the American innovative spirit is free from the chains of Big Government, all hard-working Americans prosper. In contrast, more government, more job-killing regulations, and higher taxes stifle the American spirit - and result in the persistently high unemployment and economic uncertainty we're witnessing now.
I believe we must rediscover our belief in American exceptionalism. We can do it around a national vision of energy independence and security. Eastern and southeastern Ohio can play a major role by capitalizing on the opportunities from the Marcellus and Utica Shales. Because, after all, this is America and we Americans can do anything - history tells the world this is true.
Bill Johnson represents the 6th Congressional District in Ohio.