Opinion: Columnists

Manhattan Moment: Tank Takes: New technology extends reign of 'yesterday's energy'

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Although ongoing innovation in the drilling industry is obvious, the "clean" energy sector is the one that gets most of the attention from politicians, political appointees, and environmental groups.

In 2011, in his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama called oil "yesterday's energy." He went on to claim that spending more federal tax dollars on "clean energy technology" would "strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people. ... With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015."

Obama's sound bite may appeal to certain elements of the Green Left, but here's the reality: Oil has been "yesterday's energy" for more than a century. Yet it persists. Why? Oil is a miraculous substance. If oil didn't exist, we would have to invent it.

No other substance comes close to oil when it comes to energy density, ease of handling, and flexibility. Those properties explain why oil provides more energy to the global economy -- about 33 percent -- than any other fuel. ...

Those facts haven't stopped Obama, or his political appointees, or leading environmentalists from demonizing oil at every opportunity. ...

Cheap, abundant, reliable energy supplies are essential for economic development. Despite many decades of dire predictions of energy shortages, along with the calamity and economic problems that would come from such shortages, the world continues to increase production of hydrocarbons.

Those increases are a direct result of continuing innovation in the drilling sector, and those innovations provide plenty of reason to assume that oil and natural gas will remain dominant players in the global energy market for decades to come.

Robert Bryce is a senior fellow with the Center for Energy Policy and the Environment at the Manhattan Institute.

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