It's time for a Declaration of Energy Independence
How America can bridge the gap to a less oil-dependent future
By Congresswoman Virginia Foxx
America's discussion of energy policy is dominated by sky-high gas prices, and rightly so. But in this discussion the national security implications of high energy costs often go unmentioned. Exploding gas prices not only take an ever-larger bite out of average American's budgets, but also pose a threat to our nation's security in a global energy marketplace. The time has come for an American declaration of energy independence.
Last year alone the U.S. increased our imports of oil from the OPEC cartel by 12.7 percent for a total of nearly 2 billion barrels of oilthe highest amount in 30 years. That means more than a quarter of our oil consumption comes from an oil cartel composed of countries that vary from oppressive regimes to downright sworn enemies of our country.
To make matters worse, in addition to the billions of barrels we buy from OPEC nations, we also import hundreds of millions of barrels from non-OPEC countries. All told we imported more than 3.6 billion barrels of crude oil in 2007. That's about two out of every three barrels of crude oil we use.
Imported oil puts America's energy supply at the mercy of unsavory regimes and can even funnel cash into the hands of state sponsors of terrorism. These are direct threats to our national security.
Energy independence should be a cornerstone of our long-term economic stability and national security. But our oil supply is susceptible to the tinkering of unscrupulous global leadersfrom the anti-American regime of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to authoritarian governments in the Middle East. The best strategy to counter our dependence on foreign oil is to produce oil here in America and reduce our oil consumption by making the transition to alternative sources of energy.
Today about 85 percent of our offshore energy resources are under lock and key. I support lifting Washington's out-dated ban on offshore drilling and giving individual states the option to produce offshore oil or gas. If states opt to keep their energy resources locked up, that's their call. But the least we can do is give them the choice.
According to the Departments of Energy and the Interior, America has 175 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 1.1 trillion barrels of oil that, thanks to Washington regulations, is currently illegal to tap. Unlocking these resources would generate an estimated $60 trillion in federal revenueand I support legislation to pump these federal energy revenues into alternative energy research.
Tapping into new sources of domestic oil or gas would create a massive funding stream for alternative energy researchwithout breaking the budget or raising your taxes. Renewable energy sourceshydroelectric, geothermal, wind, sun solar, and biomassmet only about seven percent of America's total energy needs in 2006, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. We need to boost this number considerably.
America can make an OPEC-free future a reality by funding innovative renewable energy research with new federal oil and gas revenues. Using billions in government oil revenue to fund alternative and renewable resources would help us bridge the gap to a less oil-dependent economy and reduce gas prices.
The good news is that exciting renewable and alternative energy projects are getting off the ground right here in Western North Carolina. Bixby Energy, an alternative energy company with a facility in Wilkes County, is pioneering a zero-emissions coal to natural gas technology that promises to bring small-scale alternative energy production to communities across the country. When I visited the Bixby Energy facility in May to learn about their proprietary technology, they informed me that this technology promises to bring more than 100 new jobs to the area.
Over at Appalachian State University, Dr. Dennis Scanlin recently took home the national Small Wind Advocate of the Year Award from the U.S. Department of Energy. He received the award for his groundbreaking work in small-scale wind energy research in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Dr. Scanlin is one of many at ASU who are actively involved in researching and educating people about alternative energy.
And there's the new Fibrowatt plant slated for Surry County that will turn chicken litter into a renewable energy source and will create 300 construction jobs and another 80 long-term operational jobs at the future Elkin facility.
The bad news is that some members of Congress cannot conceive of developing new domestic oil supplies because they are so beholden to far-left environmentalists. That's unfortunate. The very oil supplies that they keep off limits would not only help us kick our national oil habit, they could be our leverage to declare independence from the oil of oppressive regimes' once and for all.
Editor's Note: Virginia Foxx a United States Representative from North Carolina's Fifth Congressional District, is a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. You may contact her office toll free at 1-866-677-8968 or e-mail her from her website, www.foxx.house.gov.