Where the Jobs Are [OP/ED]

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October 20, 2011

By Harold Ford Jr., The Wall Street Journal

Philadelphia’s historic shipyard will soon be the construction site for two huge oil-tanker transport ships, each weighing more than 115,000 tons. This new investment will create 1,000 jobs — great news for Philadelphia but even better news for America. Despite all the criticism about Washington’s inability to jump-start our economy, American businesses remain confident enough to pursue big projects like this $400 million ExxonMobil venture.

In Alaska, meanwhile, more jobs are on the way after the Obama administration’s announcement last week that it would move forward with 500 oil-drilling leases off the coast.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo grasps the economic potential of natural gas and is moving to lift the state’s moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. By some estimates, drilling even only 300 of these natural-gas wells per year would create 40,000 Empire State jobs annually, which would pay on average $80,000.

And in Youngstown, Ohio, hundreds of construction workers are being put to work as a new $650 million steel plant is being built. This steel mill — yes, a new steel mill in America today — will build natural-gas drilling equipment for domestic use while providing 350 local jobs.

We spend so much time theorizing about new steps government can take to create jobs that we sometimes overlook the jobs that are right in front of us waiting for government approval.

Take the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline running from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. It would create tens of thousands of new jobs in construction, maintenance and refining. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supports the project, yet regulatory hurdles remain. States like Nebraska, whose approval is overdue, need to get on board with Secretary Clinton and help push this massive jobs creation project through.

With millions of Americans clamoring for employment opportunities, there is no excuse to delay. A study released last month by the Woods Mackenzie research firm found that 1.4 million jobs and $800 billion in new government revenue could be created over the next two decades by removing barriers to increased domestic oil and gas production. These are high-paying jobs, available now, and private industry — not the taxpayer — is making the investment.

We need to support leaders who are working to realize the enormous potential of America’s oil and gas industry. I don’t agree with everything President Obama has done on the economic front, but it has been unfortunate to watch fellow Democrats not back him on energy projects like the Arctic Sea permits. To ignore these resources and economic potential is counterproductive.

The government’s fundamental responsibility here is simply enabling American business to succeed. The president’s decision to roll back the Environmental Protection Agency’s ozone process was the right call, but that’s just one of more than 4,000 new rules being promulgated by Washington. There’s much more rolling back to do.

Former U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln has argued forcefully in favor of an independent review process for proposed regulations. If the costs outweigh the benefits, they should be eliminated. In the meantime, a moratorium on new regulations that don’t immediately protect public safety is a reasonable step that could be taken until our economy gets back on its feet.

Americans are asking where the jobs are. The answer: They’re all around us. We need to get out of their way, now.

Mr. Ford, a former Democratic member of Congress from Tennessee, is a visiting professor at New York University.

(c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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