By Steve Forbes
You need to watch only a few minutes of cable news analysis to realize just how ludicrous our national energy policies have become. As escalating tensions and chaos unfold in Egypt, Libya and other Middle Eastern nations, one energy analyst suggested that if Libyan oil supplies were to fail, the United States would rely on Saudi Arabia for its oil needs. If that statement alone doesn’t put U.S. leaders on red alert, the looming national energy crisis may soon become reality.
The Obama administration is repeating the mistakes of President Jimmy Carter’s failed energy policies, which marred his term and stigmatized the 1970s. They are leading us straight into another national energy disaster.
Key members of the Obama administration believe this friction abroad underscores the need to move away from oil and gas entirely and shift to boutique forms of alternative energy. Their lack of political will to drill for oil and gas compromises our national security and jeopardizes economic recovery.
It skirts the colossal elephant in the room: Oil and natural gas produced here in the United States are likely to still account for at least 57 percent of domestic energy consumption by 2035. Not to mention that energy production here can relieve the U.S. from the dangerous grip of foreign petro dictators.
Unfortunately, this administration’s Department of the Interior, with the most anti-oil-and-gas record in U.S. history, is sabotaging any real chance of avoiding the pending energy crisis because of its continued hold on deepwater drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico.
When Interior Secretary Ken Salazar heads before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, Americans – particularly the 9.2 million directly or indirectly working in the oil and gas industry – would be ill served if the question isn’t asked: Are the thousands, and counting, of out-of-work Americans in the Gulf region and beyond a worthwhile consequence of your department’s freeze?
The Interior Department’s six-month moratorium on offshore oil production has cost 8,169 jobs, according to a study by one Louisiana State University professor, along with more than $487 million in wages and nearly $98 million in forfeited state tax revenues in the Gulf states alone.
This doesn’t include the impact felt nationwide by truckers who transport goods, farmers who use oil to raise and harvest crops and working families paying more at the pump.
After the moratorium was nominally lifted last fall, the blow dealt by Interior’s subsequent permit freeze has been devastating. Not a single deepwater drilling permit has been issued since last year’s tragic oil spill. Unfortunately, there’s no relief in sight, given Salazar’s recent admission that he has no intention of issuing any drilling leases this year.
By freezing U.S. energy assets in the Gulf and keeping 97 percent of our offshore oil and gas off limits, our government, willing or not, is fueling an energy crisis that could bring this nation to its knees. Continued inaction in the Gulf threatens to force us to import an extra 88 million barrels of oil per year by 2016, at a cost of $8 billion.
One-third of the oil used in the U.S. is from the Gulf of Mexico. As oil spirals past $100 per barrel, handcuffing these domestic energy reserves only deepens our dependence on hostile oil-rich nations abroad.
The Energy Department estimates that U.S. energy needs are 17 times greater than they were 50 years ago. Yet U.S. output of domestic energy has fallen 40 percent over the same period.
The Department of the Interior can and must steer us clear of the impending energy crisis by issuing the deepwater drilling permits our nation needs to get running again. As much as the White House and its allies in Congress convince themselves otherwise, politically palatable forms of alternative energy will not keep our cars running and our population fed, now or in the near future.
While they may become more viable down the line, wind, solar and other forms of clean energy are barely a blip on the radar, contributing a mere 7 percent to U.S. energy supply. These forms of energy are unreliable and expensive at best and rely on taxpayer subsidies.
The BP well explosion was a tragic accident that would have been prevented with safer drilling systems in place. No one understands this better than oil and gas producers, who last week announced a cutting-edge oil spill containment system, ready for immediate deployment and meeting the requirements set by Interior.
It’s time for the government to allow the markets to function freely and let the energy industry get back to work in the Gulf. Our economic and national security depends on it.