by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
“Less is more” might work in the context of the aesthetic of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe or the poetry of Robert Browning, but in the economy of real things, more is more. And the new Republican majority in Congress is well positioned to implement a more-is-more philosophy in a critical economic sector: energy.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of energy in the U.S. economy: The energy market affects almost every company and every industry, from AAL to AAPL, and we have an abundant supply of it, from oil and gas to coal and other sources. Getting government out of the way and allowing those industries to flourish even more fully than they have is a project that is, unlike some of the more ambitious items on the conservative wish list, well within reach, even with President Obama’s veto pen potentially standing between bill and law. …
… The energy industry itself is a generator of enormous wealth, and it pays very good wages for everybody from Ph.D.s to truck drivers. But it is the ripple effect that makes it so important: More abundant energy means that everything that moves by road, rail, or air — i.e., basically everything — is a bit less expensive, that all of our factories are a bit more efficient, that everything made with plastics and petrochemicals — i.e., basically all manufactured goods — is a little more affordable. Those marginal changes can add up to something dramatic in an economy as complex and globally integrated as ours, because it makes the entire economy more efficient. And even with the stepped-up production of the past several years, petroleum imports alone still amount to more than half of the U.S. trade deficit — not Korean electronics and cheap plastic toys from China, but stuff we have in the ground in Pennsylvania and Texas and New York and California. Basically, we’re standing knee-deep in a pile of money, waiting for government’s permission to pick it up. You might not change Andrew Cuomo’s mind about that — or Jerry Brown’s, speaking of 1970s flashbacks — but when it comes to the millions of Americans who are not much enjoying the relative growth rates of their paychecks and their utility bills, Republicans have a pretty solid argument to make for energy abundance.