Too much regulation is standing in the way of the key to America's energy future and in turn its economic growth, former General Electric Chairman Jack Welch said on CNBC.
Removing barriers to developing natural gas is every bit as important as resolving the "fiscal cliff" of spending cuts and tax increases that looms ahead, the head of the Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University said in a "Squawk Box" interview.
"We have a chance in this country to make this the American century," Welch said. "This gas thing is huge. The gas that we have found is in the first inning - it's like the Internet in 1990. This is the first inning of the great American century."
States such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia at the forefront of natural gas exploration because of their low regulatory burdens, while New York lags, he added.
"The regulatory wall is a huge deal. It's equal in my opinion to what happens in the marketplace as the fiscal cliff," Welch said. "The regulatory wall is obviously right in front of you."
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Welch has been an outspoken supporter of Mitt Romney, the Republican who faces off against President Barack Obama in Tuesday's election.
After a bruising campaign in which the economy has taken the forefront and each has challenged the other's ability to create jobs, the two find themselves in a race too close to call.
Welch said a President Romney would create "a more positive jobs picture" that would begin with a more proactive approach toward energy independence.
But Roger Altman, chairman of Evercore Partners, said Welch is overlooking the strides Obama has made.
"We are on track right now to A) have the highest natural gas output in history...and B) surpass Saudi Arabia as the largest oil producer in the world by 2020," Altman said.
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Welch has been in the news frequently over the past month or so for his questioning of the government's jobs count, which showed the unemployment rate falling from 8.3 percent to 7.8 percent in a few months.
The rate ticked up to 7.9 percent in October even though the economy added 171,000 new jobs, according to the last Labor Department report Friday, which Welch said shows how fickle the data points are.
"Every fact says we don't have a booming economy," he said.
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