Economist Edmond J. Seifried, Ph.D., professor emeritus of Lafayette College in Easton, PA, told attendees at the 113th USA Rice Millers' Association (RMA) Convention that the U.S. economy can once again be the growth engine for the world with energy independence obtained through American natural gas exploration and extraction. Seifried said American dependence on imported oil slows U.S. economic growth, with oil price increases negatively affecting U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).

U.S. reliance on imported oil is down 5 percent since 2010, but Seifried believes the discovery of the largest natural gas find in the history of the world, the Marcellus Shale, spanning from Marcellus, N.Y. through the Appalachian Basin, will be the key to American energy independence.

The extraction of natural gas provides energy and economic benefits for the nation, but Seifried noted that the process of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" is not without controversy, as critics claim the chemicals used can contaminate groundwater supplies. Despite the criticism, Seifried said the process can be done safely and that exploration for American natural gas offers the best opportunity to put America on top again in economic development, reducing unemployment and growing GDP by more than 2 percent annually as oil imports decline and more jobs are created at home.