The readers of The New York Times opened their papers this morning to find an insightful column with some, perhaps, unfamiliar ideas.
In the “Axis of Ennui,” respected columnist David Brooks writes about the “boring” people and industries that are transforming the U.S. economy for the better.
At the top of his list is the U.S. energy industry.
Brooks notes that one of the challenges of being a New York Times columnist is traveling about the country attending conferences to find new ideas and people to write about. After all this work, he has come to a surprising conclusion:
My main impression over the past five years is that the conference circuit capitalists who give fantastic presentations have turned out to be marginal to history while the people who are too boring and unfashionable to get invited to the conferences in the first place have actually changed the world under our noses.
Readers of this blog probably know what’s coming next because you cannot talk about a changing world without talking about our industry’s contributions. Here is Brooks’ inventory of those making a deep and positive impact on people’s lives:
[T]he anonymous drudges at American farming corporations are exporting $135 billion worth of products every year and transforming the American Midwest. The unfashionable executives at petrochemical companies have been uprooting plants from places like Chile, relocating them to places like Louisiana, transforming economic prospects in the Southeast. Most important of all, the boring old oil and gas engineers have transformed the global balance of power.
I’d like to applaud David Brooks’ efforts to bring our terrific story to the attention of New York Times readers (although we are not all “boring old oil and gas engineers,” some of us are young, and some are not even engineers).
What is beyond dispute is that the results of our work are pretty exciting.
Our investments and innovations in developing unconventional sources like shale gas and tight oil as well as the deepwater and oil sands are putting North America on a path to economic growth, job creation and greater energy security.
To support his position, Brooks mentions Dan Yergin’s excellent testimony before Congress, noting that “the revolution in oil and gas extraction has led to 1.7 million new jobs in the United States alone, a number that could rise to three million by 2020. The shale revolution added $62 billion to federal revenues in 2012. At the same time, carbon-dioxide emissions are down 13 percent since 2007, as gas is used instead of coal to generate electricity.”
Brooks also quotes another incisive commentator, demographer Joel Kotkin, who has shown that the regions of America experiencing the strongest growth and lowest unemployment rates are those involved in energy, agriculture, and manufacturing – all of which are tremendous beneficiaries of unconventional oil and natural gas development. (Kotkin’s work can be found here and in a shorter form here.)
I hope that Brooks’ article attracts attention in the editorial offices and newsrooms of The Times itself, where the achievements of the U.S. energy industry may not seem exciting to some, but they deserve a full and unbiased treatment worthy of the extraordinary contributions to economic and environmental progress we are making every day.