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Surma: Energy’s the Answer to Nation’s Economic Woes

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The answer to our nation’s economic prayers is right beneath our feet in the shale fields and oilfields of North America, according to John Surma, chairman and CEO of U.S. Steel. America is poised for an energy revolution, the impact of which could rival the industrial revolution of two centuries ago, he asserted, in his address at the Steel Success Strategies conference last month in New York.

“It is clear to me that the responsible development of our nation’s extensive recoverable oil and natural gas resources has the potential to be the economic engine that coal was nearly 200 years ago,” he said. “It has the potential to be to this generation of manufacturers what coil and oil development was to the industrialists of the late 19th century.”

North America’s offshore reserves are estimated at 101 billion barrels of oil and 480 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Add to that onshore reserves of 88 billion barrels of oil and 654 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and the goal of energy independence is within the nation’s grasp, Surma said.

Growth of the energy sector could create 1.4 million additional jobs by 2030, on top of the 9.2 million jobs the sector already supports. At the same time, government revenues would increase by $800 billion. “Domestic energy resources represent a remarkable source of potential economic growth and prosperity we are unlikely to see again in our lifetimes,” Surma said.

One obstacle that could slow or even halt progress on the energy front is the specter of overregulation, he warned. “We as an industry have supported common sense regulation…but we cannot support the enactment of burdensome new federal environmental regulations when it comes to development of domestic energy resources.”

One bill the steel industry supports is a measure proposed by Congressman Tim Murphy (R.-Pa.) that would open up new areas for offshore drilling in the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. Proceeds from this new oil and gas exploration would be designated for much-needed infrastructure repairs. “Passing this bill would be a key step forward in addressing our national energy and transportation challenges, while also creating good paying manufacturing and construction jobs, plus demand for many types of steel products,” Surma said.

Domestic energy resource development is a game-changing opportunity, one the country cannot afford to fumble, he said. “The safe and environmentally responsible development of domestic energy resources, both on and off shore, can and must serve as a catalyst for our nation’s economic recovery and revitalization.”