As Candidates Discuss Energy Policy, American Drivers Focus on Gas Prices

Here at Consumer Energy Alliance, we are glad to see energy policy emerge as a cornerstone of the policy debate leading into the presidential elections this fall.  From President Obama’s recent embrace of an “all-of-the-above” energy policy during his State of the Union address to last week’s Colorado Election Energy Summit where Republican presidential hopefuls former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum detailed their strategies for increased domestic energy, energy policy has rocketed to the forefront of the debate.

Energy consumers across this country who are struggling with the rising cost of fuel should welcome the renewed focus on America’s energy future.  The single most important measure our nation can take to provide relief to American consumers is to implement sensible policies that will enable the full development of our country’s vast natural resources.  The United States’ ability to responsibly develop our abundant natural resources has never been brighter: technological breakthroughs in the oil and gas industry allow us to produce oil and natural gas trapped in deep layers of shale rock and in underground reservoirs thousands of feet below water while advancements in the renewable sector have made wind energy a reality on a commercial scale.  Such advancements could make the United States energy independent by 2020.

Although we have the technology to develop our energy resources – and political candidates paint a rosy picture for our nation’s energy future – America’s commuters, truckers, and airlines are getting hammered by record high fuel prices.  Already, experts project that 2012 will be the most expensive year to date for American drivers. With the global oil market becoming increasingly constrained, and the United States importing 11.8 million barrels per day of crude oil to keep our economy running, every time a disruption occurs — like the threat to close the Strait of Hormuz — American businesses and consumers will find themselves on the hook.

Why the disconnect between our energy potential and our energy present? Because political decisions made in Washington are having significant impacts on the rest of the country. Americans are quite literally being held hostage at the pump. This doesn’t have to be the case. In fact we have all the tools necessary to reverse it.

In order to bring relief to Americans at the pump, Washington needs to reject the false choices pitting the environment against energy development and a commit to fully developing our nation’s vast energy resources and strengthening our energy security.

As for more forward-thinking policy choices, we should be increasing access to our nation’s vast supply of affordable energy resources. According to the Institute for Energy Research’s North American Energy Inventory, the United States is host to more than 1.4 trillion barrels of technically recoverable oil and 2.7 quadrillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. Development of these energy supplies could create hundreds of thousands of jobs and spur enormous economic growth.

For example, granting the permits necessary to explore and produce offshore resources in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in Alaska would help maintain capacity in the critical TransAlaska Pipeline, as well as deliver an additional 1.4 million barrels of oil per day to U.S. markets. Further, approving the Keystone XL pipeline would bring more than 700,000 barrels per day, along with more than 20,000 immediate jobs and $5.2 billion in revenues for the corridor states alone.

Also critical to renewing a rational energy policy is restoring the Gulf of Mexico to its pre-Macondo permitting levels, which would add 130,000 barrels per day to the nation’s energy supplies. The sum total of these three steps — all of which can be done easily by this Administration or one that follows — would increase domestic oil supplies by 2.2 million barrels of oil per day and create 114,700 high-paying American jobs.

This does not mean, of course, that we should abandon the development of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. In fact, we should develop these sources more aggressively to further diversify our national energy portfolio and, in turn, increase energy security.

During this election season American voters should demand specific answers regarding our nation’s energy portfolio from the President and candidates alike.  America needs next year’s occupant in the White House to truly embrace an “all-of-the-above” energy policy.  Otherwise, our energy policy may continue to be nothing more than a game of high-stake political rhetoric.