Between the American labor market hitting a brick wall, high levels of oil imports pushing the trade deficit to nearly a three-year high, gas prices still too high and the weather around the country too hot, there’s not a lot of good news to report at the moment.

What we can offer this week is a picture of how our nation’s energy security and overall economic health could improve in the future … and what it will take to get there. Two recent studies show that the United States could dramatically increase its fuel production, and oil and gas-industry job creation, if it adopted a more balanced regulatory stance that promoted better use of our natural resources.

First, a new study from the American Petroleum Institute and the National Ocean Industries Association estimates that about 190,000 jobs could be created within two years simply by returning to permitting rates similar to those prior to the Macondo blowout. And separately, a new report from the Western Energy Alliance finds that, in less than a decade, the United States could be producing more oil and gas than we import from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Algeria, Nigeria, Venezuela and Russia combined, if the leasing and permitting processes were reformed. The report offers some good insight into the strong energy-producing potential of several states, such as Utah, that are often not even seen as being particularly rich in oil and gas.

It’s important to note that no one suggests we pursue oil and gas production in the absence of regulation: only that those regulations are reasonable and not excessively costly or time consuming. As Western Energy Alliance notes, a good start would be to eliminate “repetitive regulations,” that achieve nothing except delays, adding to the time it takes to take a project through from exploration to production.

Speaking of time, it’s imperative that in this time of so many problems and not enough clear solutions, we look to the future and consider how the policies we adopt today will impact us all tomorrow. Indeed progress is possible, but we must be proactive.