Obama State of the Union: Safe Fracking will Create 600K Jobs

President Barack ObamaLast night, President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address to Congress. Energy and natural gas played a big role in the speech. In particular, Obama acknowledges the jobs-generating power of natural gas drilling, saying it can generate 600,000 jobs by the end of this decade. He also mandated a requirement that gas drillers on public lands disclose the chemicals they use. (Disclosing fracking chemicals is already the law in five states and mostly enforced in a sixth—see this MDN story).

Obama said the U.S. has enough natural gas to last us 100 years and that he’s going to “take every possible action” to develop it. He also reaffirmed his belief in global warming.

Here is the relevant portion of the Obama’s State of the Union address that talks about energy and natural gas:

And nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. (Applause.) Right now — right now — American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right — eight years. Not only that — last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years. (Applause.)

But with only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves, oil isn’t enough. This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy. (Applause.) A strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.

We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years. (Applause.) And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy. Experts believe this will support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade. And I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. (Applause.) Because America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.

The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy. (Applause.) And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock — reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground. (Applause.)

Now, what’s true for natural gas is just as true for clean energy. In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled, and thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.

When Bryan Ritterby was laid off from his job making furniture, he said he worried that at 55, no one would give him a second chance. But he found work at Energetx, a wind turbine manufacturer in Michigan. Before the recession, the factory only made luxury yachts. Today, it’s hiring workers like Bryan, who said, "I’m proud to be working in the industry of the future."

Our experience with shale gas, our experience with natural gas, shows us that the payoffs on these public investments don’t always come right away. Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail. But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not walk away from workers like Bryan. (Applause.) I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here.

We’ve subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. (Applause.) It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that rarely has been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that never has been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits. Create these jobs. (Applause.)

We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives. The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change. But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation. So far, you haven’t acted. Well, tonight, I will. I’m directing my administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power 3 million homes. And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, working with us, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history — with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year. (Applause.)

Of course, the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy. So here’s a proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings. Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, more jobs for construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that creates these jobs. (Applause.)*

MDN’s view: There’s some mixed signals here. While Obama seems to be saying full steam ahead with shale gas drilling and fracking, at the same time, it’s his rogue EPA that’s trying to shut down fracking by grabbing the power to regulate it. It’s his EPA that’s trying to tie chemical contamination to fracking in Pavillion, WY—a PR offensive to try and turn the public against it. It’s Obama’s most avid supporters who are trying to shut down all fracking until a comprehensive study on fracking by the EPA is completed in 2014.

Obama says in the past three years his administration has opened millions of acres of public land for oil and gas exploration. Really?! His administration has shut down drilling on public lands and disallowed off-shore drilling which has forced drilling platforms to relocate to other oceans (and not likely to return here for decades, if ever). His administration continues to block drilling in the frozen tundra wastelands of ANWR in Alaska. And the crowning achievement, he blocked the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada that would also move oil from our own Bakken fields in North Dakota to Midwest and Southwest markets for refining—at a time when the price of oil is hitting record highs. Flowery words don’t paper over an abysmal energy record.

Obama’s parting statement about wasting less (i.e. using less) energy reminds MDN of Jimmy Carter’s encouragements to turn down the thermostat and wear a sweater. Obama’s version of Carter: “Upgrade” your buildings—whatever that means. Blow-in insulation? Throw a solar panel on the roof? Rip old buildings down and build new ones? No doubt, the government—meaning you and me, the taxpayers—will foot the bill, once again. No thanks.

*CBS News (Jan 24, 2012) – Obama’s State of the Union address: Full text