Energy production has emerged as a key issue in the presidential campaign, but not in a way familiar to most Americans. Rather than a focus on shortages or on alternatives to hydrocarbons —oil, gas, and coal—talk has turned to the potential benefits from an energy production boom, and how best to encourage an even bigger boom.
There are good reasons for this shift. The nation is in desperate need of jobs. And technology has unleashed a surprising increase in domestic oil and gas output. The U.S. now has a glut of natural gas, such that applications have backed up to convert facilities originally intended for imports into export terminals. At the same time, the 40-year decline in domestic oil production has been reversed. Add to this the rush to export abundant high-quality coal to soaring world demand and not only are lower prices now in play, but energy independence is in sight for the first time.
Policies that would take advantage of this hydrocarbon abundance could spark widespread employment growth at time when unemployment is a central concern for many citizens, and can be a critical issue in political "swing" states.