This commentary originally appeared in Investor's Business Daily on March 12, 2015.
Job growth is finally picking up, as we all know from bullish employment reports in January and February. But part of the jobs story isn't told: How much of the faster pace of hiring is a result of low energy prices in America relative to our international competitors.
The shale oil and gas revolution is behind the fall in gasoline and electricity prices, which in turn is unleashing a comeback in many industries. Consider the U.S. manufacturing boom, which can be seen in the revival of factories selling everything from plastics, cars and chemicals to potato and micro chips.
The turnaround has little to do with government programs or subsidies. A major springboard is the lowest-in-the-world energy prices found here in America. As the nearby table shows, the U.S. now has the lowest electricity prices of any of our major industrial competitors, with the exception of South Korea.
The differential is gigantic compared to Europe, with our power costs for industry anywhere from one-half to one-fifth those of producers in Euroland.
Shale gas drilling technologies have lowered the cost of natural gas from more than $12 per thousand cubic feet in 2008 to around $4.50 now. Natural gas at these low prices is gradually replacing the use of coal as the No. 1 source of electricity production in America — though coal remains a cheap and major source of electricity production as well.
This also explains how the U.S. has reduced its carbon emissions more than any other nation over the eight-year period ending in 2013.
Now for the flip side of the story — one of energy-policy dimwittedness. Take a look at how much of Europe has lost competitiveness as its nations have bought into the green energy fad over the last decade. "Go green" in practice means go expensive. The green blunder has sent electric power costs soaring relative to the U.S.
Nowhere is the damage more visible than in Germany. In 2005, the Germans passed the most aggressive renewable energy law of any country. The short-term goal is 30% to 50% reliance on renewables with an eventual goal of 80% over the next several decades.
The process of force-feeding industry and households green energy has increased utility costs and in some cases crippled manufacturing production. In 2013, the headline of Deutsche Wells, a top media outlet in Berlin, was: "High Energy Costs Drive German Firms to U.S."
The Wall Street Journal called the German renewable energy push a "gamble that so far isn't paying off." Many companies, economists and even Germany's neighbors worry that the huge cost to replace a currently working system will undermine the country's industrial base and weigh on the entire European economy.
Average electricity prices for companies spiked across the EU — 54% in Germany, for instance, over the five years 2009-2013 because of costs passed along as part of government renewable energy mandates.
Meanwhile, Denmark has installed more offshore wind facilities than any other country. Its prices are about double those of the U.S. In 2008, Spain began a major rush to renewables as a "stimulus" response to recession. The costs exploded so rapidly that Spain has begun retreating from the renewable initiative.
Because solar and wind power are so expensive, many European nations are getting as much as half of their renewable energy from wood. But wood is a fairly high-polluting form of electricity production, though the EU has pronounced that wood is "carbon neutral."
International energy expert Daniel Yergin notes that five years ago many of the European nations thought the rest of the world would follow their lead and spurn fossil fuels while they went all-in for renewable energy. But that hasn't happened.
The Bush and Obama administrations have poured at least $50 billion into subsidies for wind and solar power and other renewables, but they remain a tiny fraction of electric production.
Our gas prices for transportation are also much lower today than in most of the rest of the world. Today's gasoline costs at the pump are about half those of Europe. The combination of higher prices of electricity and gasoline means higher prices for consumers and lower living standards.
These price rises hurt the poor and act like a regressive tax. In every way the renewable energy fad in Europe has had catastrophic effects for the middle class. By contrast, the U.S. domestic oil and gas story is a classic win-win for consumers and producers. Keeping energy prices in America low has been the best way to bring back jobs and to help reduce the gap between rich and poor.
Remember this the next time President Obama — who won't allow pipelines to be built or drilling on public lands, and who won't rein in the EPA — lectures us on income inequality and the need to go green.
• Moore is a member of the IBD Brain Trust and a contributor to Fox News.
• Hartnett White is director of energy and environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.