Bet you’ll never guess which country is the world’s largest holder of natural gas, oil and coal resources combined. That’s right. This country. According to a report released today by the Institute for Energy Research, the United States has 1.4 trillion barrels of recoverable reserves of oil — or more than the entire world has used in 150 years. That’s enough to fuel the United States for the next 250 years. Add natural gas and coal resources to that and we’re good to go for all the foreseeable future.

But, thanks to backward energy policies, we’re still dependent on foreign sources of oil. What is perhaps even worse — at least at a time of 8.6 percent unemployment — is that those backward energy policies that restrict access to our own resources also force us to forgo badly needed jobs. Research shows that reduced job creation — not increased layoffs — explains the high unemployment we have now. Here is a readymade way to create jobs, which, again, the president says is his top priority. In fact, the IER report shows we could create 1 million jobs just by (1) unlocking more federal lands, (2) developing shale resources and (3) eliminating excessive regulation.

Why, why, why is this controversial again? I understand that fossil fuels are nonrenewable and that people are properly concerned about the potential for their total depletion. But what good does it do to conserve them just to never use them? Or, better, why is it so hard to grasp that depletion is hundreds and hundreds of years away? Why not use the energy resources we do have, trusting the impending exigency of depletion to spur innovation and the probable development of an economically viable renewable energy source? Time and time again, technological innovation has enabled us to use oil and gasoline more efficiently and to access new reserves. Similarly, a creative and affordable fulfillment of the need for a renewable resource will emerge. In the meantime, we could be enjoying energy independence and an expanded job market.