American families are preparing for the holiday season, and doing so by paying the highest fuel prices in two years. Nationwide, gas prices are a hair's breadth from $3.00 a gallon and they are clocking in at $2.99 in Nebraska. This is up from $1.81 when President Obama took office.
In addition to gasoline, heating oil and diesel prices are expected to increase for the first time since 2008, and analysts are predicting oil will hit $100 a barrel soon. At a time when our economy is struggling to recover, such skyrocketing energy costs will be catastrophic.
This is why it makes no sense the Administration recently announced plans to cancel further energy exploration and development in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Coast for at least the next five years. These sources of American-made energy are known to contain more than 86 billion barrels of recoverable oil and approximately 420 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas.
This decision has locked away resources which could free us from foreign oil, pay down the national debt, and create American jobs. Keeping these areas off-limits to domestic energy exploration will only create more demand for foreign sources of energy - weakening our economy at a time it is struggling to recover.
The American public agrees. In a recent poll, 54 percent surveyed believe the new ban on exploration will increase gas prices, while just 11 percent believe gas prices will go down because of the new regulations.
This debate, however, isn't just about offshore energy 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 the next 60 years.
Just a few days ago our nation marked the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). To date, none of the area within ANWR specifically designated for energy exploration and production has been tapped for energy production.
In 1995, then-President Clinton vetoed legislation which would have allowed exploration in a tiny sliver of ANWR. In total, ANWR consists of nearly 19 million acres, but the actual "footprint" of where production would occur is just 2,000 acres. This is the size of a postage stamp on a football field.
This action deprived our nation of what could now be about one million barrels of oil per day - an amount which would allow us to reduce our imports by almost 10 percent.
Studies have shown allowing exploration of ANWR would lead to approximately 62,000 additional jobs and government revenue would be in excess of $164 billion.
To secure our nation's energy future, it's time for both parties to work together to increase production of all forms of American energy. Unfortunately, all too often Washington focuses its attention on a single energy-source-of-the-day - whether it is oil, solar, or some other form of energy. This approach is shortsighted.
We need an "all-of-the-above" approach to our energy policy, which includes American energy sources like oil, coal, gas, bio- and alternative fuels, wind, solar, hydropower, and geothermal. Without an affordable, sufficient energy supply, our economy will continue to struggle to right itself. It's just that simple.
Two summers ago, Americans experienced sticker shock every time they filled up. This Christmas, let's give Americans a holiday gift they deserve - the time is now to expand exploration of all American energy resources.