September 2008: Government Affairs

Words: Dan KamysSeptember 2008 Government Affairs

America's Vast Energy Potential

Joe WilsonCongressman Joe Wilson (R-S.C.)

American families are facing rising gas prices, and little is being done to address the fundamentals of what is causing price increases. For too long, the strategy has been to blame energy companies, tax American businesses, and demand more from oil-rich nations. These efforts do not address the increase in demand for and the stagnant supply of oil, and they are not long-term solutions.

The growth in global demand for energy has been extraordinary. Nations like India and China are expanding their economies and putting more cars on the road. The global supply of oil has failed to keep up with this demand, and the price has gone up accordingly. In a global economy, these nations will compete, so we must be smarter and more realistic about how we strengthen our nation in the face of these changing dynamics. This is not a reality we can afford to ignore.

Thankfully, some of the factors that contribute to rising energy prices are well within our control. For example, our stagnant local refinery capacity is not something we have to live with. We have not built a new refinery in this nation in more than 30 years, because bureaucratic red tape and overregulation stood in the way. With the technology and the tools to expand our refinery capacity while addressing environmental concerns, this nation can start refining more of the oil it uses. Refining oil, however, is far down the line from where our efforts should begin. To fundamentally address the energy crisis this nation faces, America needs to work from the ground up and begin exploring for more oil and natural gas at home.

In the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), 1.5 million acres of the 19 million-acre refuge were designated in 1980 for a study to determine what oil reserves it held. Today's estimates are around 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Meanwhile, off-shore, geologists estimate that 18 billion barrels of oil might be recovered just from those areas still off-limits for exploration. Couple that potential with the immense promise of oil shale and other on-shore opportunities, and it is clear that the United States has substantial resources to explore. The technology capable of drilling and producing oil from areas thousands of feet under ground and under the ocean floor without damaging the surrounding environment is readily available as well. This is an opportunity and a need that would be irresponsible for this nation to ignore. Doing so would only add to America's already substantial dependence on foreign oil.

Today, we spend roughly $700 billion annually on foreign oil. That oil accounts for almost 70 percent of our daily fuel consumption. If this dynamic is not addressed, the United States will become increasingly subject to the whims and wishes of foreign nations — some of which have interests completely opposed to our own.

For example, Venezuela is the fourth largest major oil supplier to the United States. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has actively opposed our efforts to create stability in Central America and South America. He has supported the FARC terrorist organization that has repeatedly attacked our ally Colombia. And, he has even threatened on occasion to stop the export of oil to the United States entirely. Americans would run the risk of facing a considerable shortage of oil and skyrocketing prices if that were to happen, or if other nations that export oil on the global market (like Iran or Nigeria) chose to withhold their supplies or suffered production cuts due to terrorist activities.

It is fair to note that oil and natural gas are not the only solution to rising energy prices. Alternative-energy sources such as biomass, nuclear, hydrogen fuel cell, wind and solar technologies should be a vital part of our future energy needs. Nuclear energy is already a proven clean-energy alternative in South Carolina providing more than 50 percent of our state's electricity needs. There is substantial potential for new technologies that will revolutionize how Americans heat their homes, power their cars, and transport other goods and services. As a nation that has always been at the forefront of innovation, the United States should be leading the development of new energy technology.

Congress can begin by incentivizing the development of these alternatives, promoting energy efficiency in homes and businesses, and finally lifting the antiquated regulations and moratoriums that make it difficult to produce American-made energy. It is an all-of-the-above approach, which is the best solution to this nation's energy needs.

If we fail to adjust, fail to utilize our own natural resources, and fail to invest in alternative energies, we will have failed to deliver a stronger more competitive nation to our children.

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