Good morning, everybody. To start, I want to thank our witnesses: Marty Durbin, John Larson, and Dan Weiss. We’re happy to have you. And we look forward to your testimony.
Energy isn’t a big part of the federal budget. But it’s a huge part of the family budget. We feel the pinch every time we fill up a tank of gas. The fact is, energy is critical to our economy. We can’t get out of this fiscal mess without economic growth. And energy production fuels economic growth. It creates jobs. It increases wages. And it shrinks the deficit—without raising taxes on anyone. Energy production is one of the best tools we have to grow the economy—and to pay down the debt. So today, we’re going to learn more about it.
The change has been swift. Thanks to new technology, we can tap resources long thought out of reach. And we can do it in an environmentally responsible way. We can drill sideways—not just downward. And we can break free deposits locked in hard, dense shale. As a result, one study says our oil and natural-gas reserves are over one-third larger than previously thought. We’re already seeing the benefits: We’re importing less oil. We’re exporting more natural gas. And most importantly, we’re putting more people to work.
Take North Dakota. The Bakken Shale has been home to an economic boom. Employment in the area has grown by over a third. The average pay has risen by over 50 percent—to more than $50,000. And all working families are benefiting—not just those in the energy sector. North Dakota is creating more jobs—and better-paying jobs—in fields like construction, transportation, and food services. One McDonald’s is offering new hires a $300 signing bonus. And the surge in production is lowering energy prices. It’s a boon for all families, especially the poor.
The news from North Dakota is very encouraging. I wish I could say the same for Washington. While production on state and private lands is up since 2009, production on federal lands is down. Now, it’s true that production is higher than it was in the last year of the Bush administration. But let’s take a close look at the numbers.
In 2008, production on federal lands was rising. We were ramping up production—as we had been for years. Then, in 2009, President Obama took office—and he hit the brakes. He started taking federal lands offline—and slowly decreasing their output. By 2011, his policies began to take effect. Ever since then, production on federal lands has been falling. The private sector is moving full-steam ahead. But the President is keeping his feet firmly on the brakes.
It’s not an accident. Just yesterday, the President announced yet another attempt to limit energy production. In fact, one of his advisers recently called for a, quote, “war on coal.” The way the President sees it, we can do better only if some of us do worse. Well, if you ask me, the President’s proposal is a solution in search of a problem. This administration seems intent on picking winners and losers. It wants to subsidize its favored industries—and regulate others out of existence. But we should support working families’ livelihoods. We shouldn’t obstruct them.
And there are some concrete steps we should take. Number one, we should open more federal lands to production. Number two, we should shorten the wait time for drilling permits. Number three, we should speed up the approval process for natural-gas exports. And number four, we should resist calls to impose punitive taxes on energy companies. If we take these steps, we can help lower energy costs for working families. We can reduce our reliance on foreign oil.
And finally, we can make a serious dent in the deficit. Mr. Larson’s company, IHS, has estimated that shale-oil and gas production will increase government revenue at all levels—local, state, and federal—by $2.5 trillion between 2012 and 2035. I’m especially interested to hear your thoughts on how energy production will help the federal budget in particular.
This is a historic opportunity. And it presents a basic choice: Do we let the energy revolution take its course? Or do we cut it short? The fact is, we can grow the economy—right now—without raising anyone’s taxes, without increasing spending, without writing new regulations—if we just let working families do their job. That’s the course we should take.
With that, I recognize the ranking member, Mr. Van Hollen, for his opening remarks.