Conventional political wisdom holds that Obama’s reelection fate is bound up with the economy. If employment is up, he’s in good shape; if it remains stagnant, we may see some turnover on Pennsylvania Avenue. If this is true, the President should be cheered by the past few months’ employment numbers. December’s jobs report, which had already exceeded expectations, was recently revised upwards. It was a long winter, but spring and a second term are just around the corner.Yet while Obama may be excited by the good jobs news, he shouldn’t let it go to his head. The details of the new reports don’t exactly amount to an endorsement of his programs. Slow and steady job growth in the United States has little to do with the President’s pet programs in green energy—and a lot to do with brown. As the Wall Street Journal reports, many of the new jobs come from the recent oil and gas boom, which has begun to spread out from traditional resource states like North Dakota and Texas into states as far away as Idaho, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina:
The economic benefits of rising energy production are spreading far beyond the traditional oil patch, to Ohio and Pennsylvania, Nebraska and New York, North Carolina and Idaho. Truck drivers from pretty much anywhere can find work related to the surging energy business. Private-equity firms completed $24.8 billion of energy deals of all types last year, up from $8.5 billion in 2010, according to data tracker Preqin. Manufacturing plants are returning to the U.S. to take advantage of cheap natural gas, spurring major investments in petrochemical and steel production in the Gulf Coast and Midwest.Landowners in huge swaths of the country where shale is found are raking in money for leasing their mineral rights. Consumers throughout the U.S. are paying lower bills for heating and electricity because of cheap natural gas. Even the U.S. balance of payments with other countries is improving because of the new energy economy.
This may end up being the biggest irony of the 2012 election: a flailing, beleaguered President unwittingly saved by the industry he hates.