Can Governor Romney realistically create 4 million jobs from exploiting our nation's newfound energy sources, as the candidate claimed in the debate the other night?
Journalists are all about fact checking these debate statements, looking for the hype and the false promise, so I indulged in a similar test last night speaking to Al Monaco, the new chief executive officer of Enbridge (EEP), which builds and manages the largest pipeline system in North America. Here's a country within a company, currently slated to build $30 billion worth of pipelines in the next five years, of which $18 billion are funded and the rest are most likely going to have little problems being funded given Enbridge's amazing track record.
Monaco's answer? A definitive yes. Apparently we have so much oil and gas in the wrong spots in the country that in order to get it to where it is needed we will need millions of people to be hired, typically in higher priced jobs, in order to get it there.
How does he know? Because of the prices.
We have dramatic differences in the price of oil all over this country as the finds in Eagle Ford, Texas, Utica, Ohio, the Marcellus in Pennsylvania and the Bakken in North Dakota are found and exploited through new technology. We could dramatically lower the price of energy and make our continent energy self-sufficient if we could drill and transport what's available for us, but Monaco wonders if we have the will to do so.
The forces against this exploitation are the strongest he's ever seen -- said it in an analyst meeting earlier this week -- and unless the president gets behind it, the jobs are unlikely to be created in the numbers that could make a difference to the employment rate.
The combination of fossil fuel haters and those who would like gasoline to go much higher to force conservation are, indeed, that powerful and they will stop this exploitation if they can.
I know that it is taken as gospel among some politicians that the way to energy independence is through renewable energy, wind and solar always being the poster boys for this trend. Rarely mentioned is the fact that it's not realistic for the chief burner of fossil fuel, namely surface vehicles. You can quickly rebut that by simply saying if everyone drove an electric car or truck than we could simply plug in and end this fossil fuel madness, even though you would be plugging in to a largely coal-based system.
But the biggest user of fossil fuels are trucks using dirty diesel. Those imports could be reversed simply by having Enbridge pipelines linked from the sources of natural gas liquids and natural gas to the pump. That's where the millions of jobs would be created.
Right now neither candidate will commit point blank to trying to get us off diesel, even though that's where the most clear intersection between OPEC jobs and US jobs are. That's where the North American energy independence would come from. It's in geological reach, it just isn't in political reach.
But it is important to point out that the man who would be doing the bulk of the initial hiring, the man who is going to make his five-year double-digit compounded rate of return with or without the support of government knows it is a reality. But he doesn't have the votes and, alas, is powerless to put the infrastructure jobs in place. So we keep the employment rolls below our nation's demands, we keep the skies dirty, we stay dependent upon OPEC and we just keep the ridiculous status quo.