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Over a Million U.S. Jobs Locked Away in Offshore Resources

Given the nation’s current economic turmoil, it seems logical to think that lawmakers would want to support a plan to generate more than a million new, high-paying, long-lasting jobs. Strangely, however, a handful of politicians are doing just the opposite as they push to reinstitute the recently lifted federal bans on offshore drilling.

If successful, their campaign could keep coastal states from reaping a $5.7 trillion economic windfall and prevent the rest of the country from garnering $2.45 trillion. [IMGCAP(1)]

According to a new study, those benefits are just some of the $11 trillion in economic activity over the next 30 years that America will forgo if officials on Capitol Hill ignore logic and reinstate the federal bans on oil and gas development in the Outer Continental Shelf that they begrudgingly lifted last fall.

The multitrillion-dollar amount at stake is not an optimistic guess. It’s not even a moderate one. In fact, it’s very conservative. Researchers arrived at these figures using government estimates of recoverable OCS oil and gas along with federal models for economic activity, job opportunities and tax revenues.

Even these temperate estimations promise great opportunity.

For instance, take the more than 270,000 jobs that expanding oil and gas development off our coasts would create in the early investment phase alone. That equates to more than a quarter of a million jobs before production even begins. These opportunities offer a vital boost to domestic employment in a nation that experienced 200,000 layoffs over the past two years in the auto industry alone.

Over their lifetimes, the new offshore energy projects would support and sustain about 1.2 million jobs for 30 years. These include not only more than 230,000 jobs in oil and gas extraction, but also more than 100,000 in health care and in retail trade. Plus, we would gain 70,000 jobs in each of the following industries: hospitality, real estate, professional services, manufacturing, and administrative and waste management services.

These jobs will be generated in hard-pressed coastal states, such as California and Florida, and interior states — Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and any other state that trades with coastal regions or boasts industries that supply oil and gas companies.

Private investment in our offshore oil and gas resources will go a long way toward bringing our nation out of its current economic turmoil. Not only will it provide American workers with real, nonsubsidized jobs, increased exploration would also generate $2.3 trillion in new tax revenue for federal, state and local governments over the next 30 years — a rate of more than $70 billion a year. Those tax receipts will ease the debt our treasuries are currently drowning in as a result of the many government attempts to bail the nation out of the current economic crisis.

The people who fight all of this economic prosperity cite environmental concerns as a reason to reinstate the offshore exploration bans. Their claim that offshore energy development’s risks outweigh its benefits is no longer viable.

Today, American oil and gas companies use far better technology and processes specifically designed to maintain the integrity of environments in which they work. In the years between the 1970s and 1990s, the total amount of oil that appeared in coastal waters as a result of exploration dropped by almost 90 percent, despite a 30 percent increase in production.

It’s only gotten better since then: Today, less than 1 percent of all oil found in the marine environment comes from offshore oil and gas development. By comparison, the Minerals Management Service notes that natural seeps — those with no connection to oil and gas operations — “introduce about 1,700 barrels of oil a day into U.S. marine waters.”

A White House and Congress battling the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression cannot afford to squander these vast natural resources. Our leaders must stand up for 1.2 million real jobs and $360 billion in annual economic benefits — all available at no cost to the taxpayer. Our lawmakers must stand up for expanded development of our nation’s offshore resources.

Thomas J. Pyle is president of the American Energy Alliance.

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