ONE of the reasons for America's industrial might in the last century was that we had cheap, readily available energy. Domestic coal and oil fueled the economic engine.
But oil supplies dwindled, forcing us to depend on overseas production, and much of the easy-to-reach coal was mined out. Ever-tightening environmental regulations have made it harder to produce coal and reach off shore oil.
Manufacturing, a pillar of the economy and long a source of good jobs, declined or migrated elsewhere.
However, there are encouraging signs that America is again about to flex its considerable economic muscle. The onset of the revival can be found, once again, in cheap energy. This time it's unconventional oil and natural gas production.
Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing now make it possible to reach previously isolated reserves of oil and natural gas. A new report by the consulting firm IHS finds that these recently accessed sources are beginning to have a dramatic effect on the nation's economy and standard of living.
"Unconventional oil and gas activity increased disposable income by an average of $1,200 per U.S. household in 2012 as savings from lower energy costs were passed along to consumers in the form of lower energy bills, as well as lower costs for all other goods and services," the report said. That figure is expected to rise to just over $2,000 by 2015.
IHS says the impact of the cheap, additional fuel supplies are being felt throughout the economy. Our trade deficit is declining, the chemical industry is coming back and manufacturing is beginning to return.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month, "After more than a decade of losing ground to China and other export powerhouses, U.S. manufacturers are finally showing signs of regaining a competitive edge."
Here are a couple of other key findings from the IHS report: