This past Monday marked yet another downbeat Labor Day, with too many people who ought to have been taking a break from work, lacking work altogether. This week there are new signs that Washington is finally looking at the nation’s unemployment problem for what it is: a serious crisis in need of immediate attention.

This renewed focus on job creation is overdue, and we welcome any sound ideas that President Obama and other lawmakers have to offer. We also need to note that while the jobs crisis has been persistent, job creation does not always have to be a perplexing puzzle. Right now, the oil and gas industry has the ability to create tens of thousands of well-paying jobs, if only Washington would get out of the way. We’ve noted several times before on this blog that restrictive drilling policies in the Gulf of Mexico have damaged not just the local economy, but have cost jobs around the country. Now, as lawmakers take a closer look at ways to create jobs, we offer a recap of some of the best job-creating strategies that we’ve highlighted on this blog in the past.

  • Lift hurdles to drilling in the Gulf. Policies that encourage oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico are not only essential to our energy security but, as a recent report from the Gulf Economic Survival Team showed, some 230,000 jobs around the country could be created just by returning the Gulf to production levels seen before last year’s deepwater drilling moratorium. Never mind that the moratorium has been lifted, the rate of drilling there is still down. News last month that the Interior Department is planning its first sale of offshore leases in the Gulf in more than a year left us encouraged, but lease sales off Virginia in the Mid-Atlantic remain suspended, despite overwhelming bipartisan support from the Commonwealth’s leaders, and development of Alaska’s abundant offshore resources in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas remains in prolonged bureaucratic limbo.
  • Approve the proposed Keystone XL pipeline connecting oil producers in Canada and the upper Midwestern region of the U.S. to refiners in the Gulf. Keystone is the sort of large-scale infrastructure project that lawmakers commonly cite for being able to create large numbers of well-paying jobs in the ailing construction sector. A ruling on the $7 billion project is expected around year-end. Your support of this important project is needed now.
  • Support responsible development of shale gas. The combined use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to access vast gas reserves long considered off limits has been a bright spot in the domestic energy sector in recent years. This activity has not only opened up a major new source of domestic energy, but also created several pockets of robust economic activity – some say boom towns – from Pennsylvania to Colorado to Texas. The decline in economic activity in the Gulf should serve as a warning about how overly restrictive policies can kill jobs, even in established industries. Now, as lawmakers continue to consider the best ways to regulate this fairly new industry, they must keep in mind how many jobs are at stake and adopt policies that support the responsible development of this important natural resource.