A Better Approach to Energy Policy
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By Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison
Since Thomas Edison and the Spindletop gushers that started the Texas oil boom, America has been the world leader in energy development. From electricity to nuclear power, American technology and industrial innovations have fueled global economic transformation with new forms of energy.
Today, we’re pioneering in new areas like conservation and green energy technologies. And America can continue to be the global energy leader for decades to come -- if the White House and Congress can come together to support a balanced energy policy.
For the past three-and-a-half years, however, the White House has pursued an anything-but-fossil-fuels policy, rather than a practical energy plan that utilizes all our options. Billions of taxpayer dollars have been funneled into solar, algae, wind and other emerging green energy areas that may prove effective in coming years. In the meantime, however, tighter federal regulations have been suffocating coal, oil and gas development.
This has meant the loss of millions of American jobs in the energy sector and allied industries -- in effect, exporting those jobs to other countries from which we buy oil at exorbitant prices. They have also contributed significantly to higher energy costs for American businesses and families; gasoline prices have doubled since 2009, even though gasoline consumption has dropped.
Nearly two-thirds of federal lands are now off-limits for energy development. New oil and gas exploration along our east and west coasts has been barred. Although the one-year ban on new permits in the Gulf of Mexico has been lifted, new permitting has moved forward at a snail’s pace. As a result, oil production in the Gulf has already fallen by 250,000 barrels per day and may eventually fall by as much as 40 percent. And thanks to a host of new mandates and rules for coal-fired electricity, our principal source of electrical power, power plants are closing and tens of thousands of miners and plant workers are losing their jobs.
Stifling energy development kills our chance to create the millions of jobs we need to reach a full economic recovery. In fact, as the national economy has barely crawled along, the states that have done best are the ones, like Texas, that have continued their long-standing, sensible policies that encourage energy development.
The boom in shale gas development illustrates this point. The Eagle Ford shale band runs just south of San Antonio. Though its energy potential was known for some time, it was not economically viable to extract its rich resources until a few years ago, when hydraulic fracturing technology advanced. Today Eagle Ford and other shale deposits in Texas are yielding oil, natural gas and hydrocarbons, boosting our energy industry and bringing jobs and revitalized economies to towns and counties around the state, particularly in South Texas.
According to a study conducted by the University of Texas at San Antonio, the oil and gas reserves in South Texas contributed $25 billion in total economic output to the South Texas region in 2011 and created upwards of 47,000 full-time jobs. Across the nation, tapping our enormous shale gas fields is contributing more than $75 billion to our economy -- and that number is forecast to triple in coming years. Nevertheless, the Administration is sending signals that a second Obama administration will try to usurp state authority in order to slow shale gas development.
The Administration’s continuing opposition to building the Keystone XL pipeline is another telling indication. Building the pipeline and taking advantage of oil produced by our friendly Canadian neighbors could lower the price of gasoline for every American, and it also would create thousands of construction jobs, new refinery jobs in Texas, and an infinitely preferable alternative to buying oil from unfriendly countries.
A sound energy policy could revitalize our economy. It would also have significant benefits for our foreign policy and national security. Rather than continuously throwing up road blocks to our domestic energy industry and obstructing states that encourage energy development, the Administration should adopt balanced policies that can lead to U.S. energy independence: prudent testing of green energy alternatives, creative conservation and efficiency efforts and aggressive development of our domestic energy resources -- opening up more offshore areas to exploration and drilling, taking advantage of America’s enormous shale gas deposits, and building the Keystone pipeline.
Hutchison, a Republican, is the senior U.S. senator from Texas.