Election 2012

Nation’s energy policy drives election and economy

Nation's energy policy drives election and economy

They say that history has a knack of repeating itself.  In 2004, then presidential candidate Senator John Kerry indicated in a half-hearted quip that he had figured out Karl Rove’s election strategy.  Namely that the political strategist sought to “make gas so expensive, no Democrats can afford to go to the polls.” While that gained a few laughs at the time, the message remains the same today.  Increasing prices at the pump are requiring American’s to make difficult choices and are negatively impacting our nation’s economic recovery.

Just a few examples, the price of gasoline for a Labor Day weekend broke records this year at $3.83 per gallon. On Monday, September 17th prices hit their highest point ever for that time of year reaching an average of $3.86 per gallon.  Meanwhile, gas prices have doubled since 2008, rising by nearly 100 percent when prices were on average $1.79 per gallon.

Usually, when the summer driving season ends gas prices begin a retreat, it appears that may not be the case this year. That’s problematic on a number of levels as a 25 cent increase in gas prices is sustained for a year, costs the economy a much-needed $35 billion. To date, gas prices have risen nearly two dollars over the course of four years.

This reality makes it all the more imperative that our leaders in Washington do everything they can to utilize America’s domestic resources, ensure our energy security, and offer American families and businesses some protection against increasingly unmanageable fuel costs. An “all-of-the-above” energy policy that furthers oil and natural gas development in the U.S. has been touted by both parties, but a scan of recent years shows more missed opportunities than leadership at the federal level. This represents a failure of inside-the-beltway politics that our nation simply can’t afford.

What we need now, and what we can’t afford to delay, is a bold, decisive agenda that will increase domestic production without comprising our environment or our safety.

The American people support such a policy in large numbers. A recent survey conducted in August indicated that increased domestic production is exactly what Americans want their energy policy to reflect. Polling showed that a clear majority, at 71 percent, were in favor of increased access to available oil and natural gas resources, 90 percent believed increased development would lead to more American jobs and, perhaps most tellingly, 87 percent thought that greater energy independence would lead to lower energy costs for consumers.

What’s more? Pursuing such a policy would be an economic boon for the United States.  Last year, the oil and natural gas industry accounted for 9 percent of all U.S. jobs and in August oil and natural gas extraction payrolls grew by 1,100 employees to 197,300 on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Unfortunately, federal policies in recent years have made it more difficult to develop our natural resources, not less.  While imports are decreasing thanks to development on private land- well outside of the federal government’s reach- we still import eight million barrels of oil per day.

This is especially galling considering a 2012 report from the Institute for Energy Research, based on data from the Energy Information Agency (EIA), the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Department of Energy found that the U.S. has 1.4 trillion barrels of technically recoverable oil and 2.7 quadrillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas within reach. With those resources literally within our grasp, it’s unfathomable why we wouldn’t seek to safely and responsibly develop them to our economy’s benefit.

If we have to import oil, it makes sense to gain a significant portion of that supply from our largest trading partner and most loyal ally. Unfortunately, development of the Keystone XL pipeline has been delayed continuously. This project, if approved, would provide access to 2.3 million barrels of Canadian crude oil every day. However, due to continued delays, the Canadian government is contemplating diverting portions of this supply to China which could leave the U.S. reliant on more hostile nations for access to this critical commodity.

That move, combined with 2010’s drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico and continued delays for Royal Dutch Shell’s oil and natural gas production activities in offshore Alaska, which has now just begun after a nearly five year delay, has severely limited U.S. resources.

Given that the price of crude oil accounts for 68 percent of gas prices, the link between our domestic supply and the cost to consumers can’t be overstated. It’s time our national agenda matched what the American people want- energy policies that lead to sufficiency and lower fuel costs for consumers. While our politicians seem to have caught on- both Republican and Democratic agendas mention reducing our reliance on imported oil- we need to move beyond words and rhetoric and on to an immediate plan of action. After all, our economy’s success depends on it.

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