By U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., newly selected chairman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the 112th Congress, and former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham
When the new Congress convenes, the central questions before it, and between Capitol Hill and the White House, will be how to improve America’s economy and maintain U.S. national security. The answers to both questions are, in no small measure, the same: We need to strengthen our energy security.
Without an affordable, sufficient energy supply, our economy cannot make the forward strides required to put the recession behind us. America’s economy has never grown at a strong clip without adequate supplies of reasonably priced energy — and this remains true.
Moreover, without affordable, domestic energy supplies, America is likely to continue to face the geopolitical vulnerability that comes from being at the mercy of other nations for such a disproportionate share of our energy supply.
Energy security must be at the top of Washington’s agenda, or we will continue to face serious economic and national security threats well into the future.
Fortunately, it is within our power to address these challenges. The United States remains blessed with large quantities of domestic energy supplies. The issue is: Can we take advantage of them?
Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the northeast corner of Alaska’s designation as the Arctic National Wildlife Range. This area, home to large quantities of natural resources, has been off limits to energy production.
We had a unique opportunity 15 years ago to change course and fortify our nation’s domestic energy supply. But it was derailed. In 1995, President Bill Clinton vetoed legislation that would have allowed environmentally responsible exploration for an estimated 10 billion plus barrels of oil in a tiny sliver of ANWR. This action deprived our nation of what could now be about one million barrels of oil per day—an amount that would allow us to reduce our imports by almost 10 percent.
And that’s not all. Astoundingly, huge percentages of additional U.S. oil resources remain off-limits to exploration. According to federal estimates, there is enough oil in deep waters many miles off our coasts and on federal lands to power more than 60 million cars for 60 years. In addition, if we advance the commercialization of the nation’s 2 trillion barrel oil shale resource, we could meet U.S. oil needs for more than two centuries.
If we are permitted to use our vast domestic energy reserves, prices would fall, new jobs could be created and the United States could achieve a greater level of energy security.
Inexpensive energy helped build our economy into the most powerful and prosperous in the world. High energy costs, along with growing dependence on foreign sources, take us in the opposite direction.
And, it is not just oil. We have not licensed and built a nuclear power plant in decades. Ignoring advances made in nuclear safety and the deployment of nuclear plants in the rest of the world, U.S. policymakers have thwarted development of nuclear energy despite its obvious benefits.
Nuclear plants are a terrific source of job creation and economic development. Expanding nuclear power could create thousands of good-paying permanent jobs and provide yet another domestic source of vitally needed energy.
Oil and nuclear are not the only energy sources we need more of. The current situation demands an “all of the above” strategy — diversifying our energy portfolio, and pushing development of our own natural resources. That means not just more oil and nuclear, but more coal, natural gas and renewables. Sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately, in the past two years Congress, along with Obama administration regulators, have promoted policies likely to push prices even higher, by creating disincentives for energy production in the United States. The glaring consequence of reducing new domestic energy production is greater dependence on foreign energy, coupled with higher commodity prices.
Enough is enough. The days of such policies must come to an end.
Congress has a duty to pursue a broad, visionary, comprehensive approach to energy security. Everything must be on the table. Neither our economy nor our national security can be adequately protected if we continue to declare various forms of energy, or areas of energy production, “off limits.” Instead, we need to pave the way for more nuclear power and for the extraction of more domestic natural resources.
If we do this, we can have adequate supplies of affordable energy and end the increasing demand for energy imports. If we do not, we will find our energy more expensive and less available. Our economy is likely to suffer and our growing dependence on foreign energy will jeopardize U.S. security.
The choice is clear. We owe it to all Americans to make the tough decisions and take the bold actions they expect and deserve. It is time to get back on track to protect our nation and expand our economy.
Special column by U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who was elected chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the coming 112th Congress by House Republicans Dec. 7, and former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. This column originally appeared in Politico on Monday, Dec. 6, 2010.