Dr. Laura Nelson, Ph.D. – Op-Ed for the Deseret News
Responsible energy development is a key part of the Utah economy, and it is a driving force behind growth in the Uintah Basin. Our current energy boom is driven by market conditions as well as a technological revolution that has come in the form of new drilling and well-stimulation techniques.
Energy is creating high-paying jobs. Energy jobs in Utah account for 1.4 percent of the state’s jobs — just under 18,000 — but account for 2.6 percent of the state’s total wages. The average energy job in Utah pays nearly double the state’s average wage, and Duchesne and Uintah counties boast the highest median wages in the state.
The Uintah Basin has an astounding 2.7 percent unemployment rate, with thousands of jobs currently available in Duchesne and Uintah counties. As a result, Duchesne County is the second-fastest growing rural county in America, and Vernal is the sixth fastest growing micropolitan area in the nation. In fact, one in five jobs in Uintah County is energy-related, and in Duchesne, that number is one in four. Wages are up not only for jobs directly related to the energy sector, but many indirectly related as well, including construction jobs, transportation jobs and jobs within the hospitality industry.
Our as-yet-untapped oil shale and oil sands resources are by far the largest resources in the country, with an estimated 77 billion barrels of oil recoverable from oil shale, and 15 billion barrels of oil recoverable from oil sands. These are perhaps Utah’s most promising energy resources in terms of future revenue and job creation potential.
Utah is willing — and has proven itself able — to manage its natural resources effectively, but we remain subject to arcane federal regulatory processes that hinder our natural, environmentally responsible economic growth. While the Uintah Basin is particularly harmed by these delays, the area has also shown remarkable innovation and cooperation as many sectors have come together to find workable solutions. (…)