Niagara Gazette

Columns

August 20, 2013

CONFER: Obama should focus on energy and people

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — Recently, though, the president has broken from the far left of his party and alluded to the greatness of the vast natural gas reserves that other states have been reaping with hydrofracking (“fracking”). This resource can be extracted efficiently, cleanly and smartly with investments by the private sector being done under the watchful eye of the public sector.

The abundant gases can be used to make very clean electricity on the cheap, which will instantly and significantly lower one of the largest production costs (manufacturers could see power bills drop by 10% or more). Similarly, the gas can be used to make polyethylene, which can satisfy domestic demand for plastics, helping the market which has seen higher prices due to higher global demand. This could lead to plastic prices dropping by more than 20%.

Both of those factors will lead to greater middle class employment in the manufacturing sector because exports would increase and domestic consumers would buy more goods — all courtesy of significantly lower input and selling costs.

Capitalize on our people

Why do we as a society think that a college education is the gateway to success? For many it is. But for just as many, it’s the gateway to debt.

Success can be also be had for those who want it by utilizing vocational education, offered by many public schools and regional consortiums (like BOCES). Such programs have been grossly underutilized to the determent of the middle class: The National Association of Manufacturers reports that the skills gap is so significant that 600,000 open positions are wanting nationwide while 400,000 more exist in the trucking industry. It’s obvious that opportunity exists.

We need to make good on that opportunity and transform our national educational policy – if not society’s outlook on alleged “dirty jobs” — to account for teens being not just college-ready, but workforce-ready, too. Give people the skills that the marketplace needs. We need to emphasize and empower those blue-collar scholastic pursuits, as well as the associated STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) curricula, skill sets in which other nations’ students are besting ours.

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