America's Energy-Based Economic Renaissance
"Along the Texas coast it's easy to spot the effects of America's oil and gas renaissance in new hotels built in the past five years (many of them now populated by itinerant oilfield workers), in the multiplying numbers of overnight "shale-ionaires," in rising home values, expanding car and truck dealerships, and effectively full employment.
What really excites experts is that these signs of prosperity in the gulf point to a larger trend. "We call it the great revival of the North American oil industry," declares Daniel Yergin, head of Cambridge Energy Research Associates. "This is a turnaround not just for North America's oil supply, but one with global impact. It's certainly the biggest development in the world oil market of this century."
That means the oil and gas boom could make America a major player again in the world energy market and help spur the entire U.S. economy. Already, both Texas and Louisiana have unemployment rates significantly below the national average, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the West South Central region -- which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas -- has the second-lowest overall unemployment rate in the country, at 7.1%. The lowest? West North Central, which includes North Dakota (with a 3% unemployment rate), where gas producers in the supergiant Bakken formation can't find enough workers to fill their shifts.
Cheap domestic energy is also good news for the manufacturing sector. "The discovery and development of North America's shale resources has the potential to be the most remarkable source of economic growth and prosperity that any of us are likely to encounter in our lifetimes," U.S. Steel CEO John Surma told the Congressional Steel Caucus in a late March hearing. It's a virtuous cycle: More drilling requires more steel, and lower energy costs give U.S. steel producers a cost edge. This at a time when the Department of Energy reports that the energy intensity of U.S. steel companies is now among the lowest in the world."