On Thursday, September 13th the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold a hearing on “The American Energy Initiative.” This hearing is the latest part of an ongoing initiative focused on critical energy issues in North America.
Thursday’s hearing will focus on the potential for achieving North American energy independence within the decade. Recent technological advances have made it cheaper and easier than ever to access our continent’s wide range of energy sources, enhancing our energy security. These technological advances are changing the way we look at energy.
There is no question anymore that we have plenty of energy within our borders. The issue is whether policies will enable us to actually use it. As Mark P. Mills from the Manhattan Institute has written: “The main obstacles to developing a North American oil surplus are political rather than geological or technological.”
Interestingly enough, the increase in production of oil and natural gas has for the most part taken place on private lands and not on federal lands. In fact, production on federal lands has dropped significantly: according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), 96 percent of the increase in domestic oil supplies since 2007 has come from production on non-federal lands. As Mills has pointed out, this is due mainly to the political landscape and not geological formations.
The federal government can play a greater role toward enhancing domestic energy security if it efficiently manages the energy resources it controls. What does this mean? It means being committed to an “all of the above” approach to energy. It means opening up more of our Outer Continental Shelf to off shore exploration and opening up additional onshore areas to unconventional oil and gas development. It means committing to clean coal, not trying to phase it out with regulations, and it means investing in technologies that allow renewables and alternative energy sources to succeed. We can’t simply pay lip service to the “all of the above” approach; we actually have to follow through.
We have increasingly become our own worst enemy when it comes to energy. We have the resources and we have much of the technology needed to harness these resources, but through policy choices we are making many impossible or illegal to use and others less economically feasible.
We need a long term energy policy that is well thought out and that has clearly defined objectives. Energy producers need to understand the rules of the road so that they can invest in an intelligent and rational manner. Most energy related projects take far longer to plan and complete than our election cycle. Yet energy policy can swing wildly from one election to the next. This makes it difficult to do capitol planning and anticipate which energy source will be in or out of favor. We applaud the Subcommittee on Energy and Power for their continued efforts to keep this topic in the forefront of the national debate.
Chip Yost is assistant vice president of energy and resources policy, National Association of Manufacturers.
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