First, I will tell you my rather humiliating story, which is really of no great importance, but I thought it might amuse you to be reminded that things never fully go according to plan. There’s always a gremlin at work somewhere.
Then I want to tell you why leadership matters and how energy independence for our nation truly is achievable. Now that is important.
I arrived at my hotel, bruised and bloody, feeling as if I had been drop kicked by Bronko Nagurski. But despite my disheveled appearance, I had not been mugged or engaged in fisticuffs. Rather, I was attacked by a gasoline pump hose just outside Rogers, Ark.
Apparently this gas hose took great exception to me trying to step over it and, as a result, down went Barber. I literally broke the fall with my face.
For a few moments, I lay prone, spitting out gravel, and trying to understand just what had happened. When I saw blood on the pavement, I knew this was not going to be good. I grabbed my scarred glasses lying nearby and slowly got to my feet, all the while looking around to see if anyone had seen my disgraceful tumble. Apparently, nobody had.
Then I grabbed napkins inside my truck to staunch the free flow of blood. There was a lot of blood.
Two hours later, I attended a dinner of the Arkansas Economic Developers with a big honking band aide across the bridge of my nose. I was still feeling a bit woozy and it was difficult for me to follow conversation at the table. My left arm was swollen and throbbing with pain.
A friend who sat beside me at the dinner noticed my discomfort and escorted me back to the hotel early. He loaded me up with ibuprofen, and I went to bed wondering how and if I would pull off my presentation the next day.
Well, the next day came and I gave my presentation on business retention and expansion to a roomful of economic developers. And I think, at least I hope, that my audience got some value from it. My address was subdued, minus the usual cat and chainsaw juggling this time, because I had been slapped down to earth, literally, and was still feeling the effects. A week later, as I write this blog, my left arm is still sore.
So what is the purpose or moral of my story? Twofold.
First, watch out for gas pump hoses. They are treacherous and will strike when you least expect it. Second, the show must go on.
A special thanks to my kind hosts — Susie Marks, with the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, and Joey Dean, with the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce. When Joey first saw me not long after I bit the ground, he said, “Dean, do you need to go to the hospital for stitches?”
I did not need a hospital. At that point, all I needed was to call my wife, Tera, and hear her cackle with laughter as I told her of my disgraceful fall. Such is life.
The Fayetteville Shale Plays Big
Whenever I go to an event, I almost always learn something new about a place where the event is being held. In the case of Arkansas, I had no idea, had never even heard of the Fayetteville Shale play. But it has brought about billions of dollars to the state of Arkansas and has resulted in thousands of new, high-paying jobs.
Now that is something worth learning more about. Energy has always been a big interest for me, partly because I believe our nation’s fate and future prosperity is so very much tied to it. For more years than I care to remember, dating back at least to the 1973 Arab oil embargo, politicians of every stripe have been blathering on about energy independence.
Now we have a chance to do something about it.
But before I dwell on our lack of a cohesive energy policy in this nation, let me tell you about what I learned about the Fayetteville Shale play in nine counties in the northern part of Arkansas.
As of 2011, the number of people employed by the oil and gas industry in Arkansas directly related to Fayetteville Shale play was 7,544 (at an average annual wage of $74,555) and another 22,499 in indirect or spinoff jobs, according to Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.
Production of natural gas from nine Fayetteville Shale counties increased from 100 million cubic feet in 2004 to 943.6 billion cubic feet in 2011. More than $12.7 billion was invested by energy companies in the nine counties from 2008 to 2011, generating total economic activity of more than $18.5 billion. As a result of this production, the Fayetteville Shale counties collected almost $109.2 million in additional property taxes.
According to Ms. Deck’s research, because of the Fayetteville Shale activities, taxes on employee compensation, indirect business taxes and fees, household taxes, and corporate taxes netted the state and local governments almost $2 billion from 2008 to 2011.
Clearly, natural gas has had a sizeable economic impact in Arkansas. Clearly natural gas could have a huge impact over our nation’s future and fortunes if only we recognize the opportunities and act.
Frankly, I don’t think we know just how much natural gas that we are sitting on. Back in 2000, some experts actually warned that we might have only have seven years of production left of natural gas. Now I see estimates ranging from 125 years to 300 years.
The U.S. Geological Survey has increased its estimate of recoverable natural gas from the Marcellus shale, encompassing parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, to 84 trillion cubic feet. That’s 42 times higher than the previous estimate in 2002.
So it is becoming apparent that we are the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. Our country probably has more of it than anyplace in the world. We are sitting vast seas of natural gas trapped in shale rock formations in various parts of the country and we still keep on finding more.
And here is the deal, natural gas is way cheaper and way cleaner than dirty OPEC oil and it’s here. As I earlier mentioned, for 40 years, we have been hearing the politicians prattle on about energy independence. Well, I think it is about put up or shut up time.
The truth is that we actually can become energy independent as a nation and thereby create hundreds of thousands if not millions of jobs and revive a limping economy (and protect the environment) if we only exert the leadership to make it happen. Now how do we do that?
Well, first you listen to people who know what they are talking about. When it comes to energy, T. Boone Pickens, who released his own energy policy proposal in 2008 called the “Pickens Plan,” is the man.
“Properly managed energy can bring back the economy,” said Pickens, who has presented his ideas for solving America’s energy problems to both President Obama’s administration and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s camp.
In an essay published by National Review Online and co-written with R. James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Pickens says that as long as OPEC has America over a barrel, we are vulnerable to our economy being shaken to its core, and we will continue spending untold billions that don’t have to be spent.
“No amount of increasing mileage for America’s car and light truck fleet can solve the “central” problem of OPEC simply cutting output to keep supplies tight and prices high. Increasing domestic oil production will not solve the problem because domestic prices would simply follow global prices up and down,” Pickens wrote.
“The only solution is to move from dirty, imported, expense diesel – largely refined from OPEC oil – to clean, domestic, cheap natural gas; especially for heavy duty trucks.”
Pickens contends that transitioning the nation’s heavy-duty and fleet-vehicle market to compressed and liquefied natural gas (30 percent cleaner than diesel and with a savings of $2 per gallon) would create more than 400,000 new jobs and cut OPEC dependence by 70 percent.
During the Republican National Convention in Tampa last week, Pickens ran an ad highlighting his views. I expect he will run the same ad this week for the Democractic National Convention in Charlotte.
“OPEC oil has dictated our foreign policy and at times crippled our domestic economy. Even today we are dependent on other countries’ oil for over 60 percent of our country’s needs. … We risk the lives of American soldiers and spend hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to keep oil flowing through the Straits of Hormuz. It’s time to sober up and work our way out of this hole before it’s really too late.”
Recently on the MSNBC cable network show “Morning Joe,” Pickens said that out of the 17 million barrels of oil that pass through the Strait of Hormuz on a daily basis, only about 15 percent, or 2.2 million barrels, goes to America. And yet we spend billions to keep a military presence there to ensure that the oil flows. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Using the resources that we have, which apparently are vast seas of natural gas in North Dakota, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Arkansas, among other places, can break our OPEC oil addiction.
According to Pickens, this is not rocket science. This is leadership. And apparently, that’s been in rather short supply.
Dean Barber is the principal of Barber Business Advisors, LLC., a site selection and economic development consulting firm based in Plano, Texas. He can be reached at 972-767-9518 or at email@example.com Please visit our website at www.barberadvisors.com