By Eric Cantor
In the fight to provide a national energy policy that secures America's future, we need to maximize development of our resources to win. Yet many in Washington remain intent on a policy that closes off vast sources of domestic energy while increasing costs for families and businesses that are already tightening their belts.
By enforcing a regulatory blockade on domestic drilling for oil and gas, the Obama administration is imposing what amounts to an enormous tax on all Americans. But that higher sum of money we pay for gasoline, instead of staying at home, is sent to other countries in one of the greatest transfers of wealth in history. It amounts to playing roulette with our economic and national security, while sacrificing hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The timing couldn't be worse. Crawling out of the worst recession in generations, the U.S. economy is just beginning to show long-overdue signs of recovery. But any momentum that has been generated is suddenly endangered by the abrupt spike in gasoline costs. Over the past month, gasoline has surged to about $3.65 per gallon, contributing to a roughly 33 percent rise over the past year. The pain isn't just confined to the gas pumps. Higher transportation costs cripple small businesses and lead to higher costs for families and consumers on everything from groceries to consumer goods to airline tickets.
Several economists predict that our economy could slip back into recession should oil -- now around $108 per barrel -- come close to retracing its 2008 highs of $147. As millions of Americans remain out of work, the stakes couldn't be higher.
The most frustrating part about watching the violent price swings at gas stations is the fact that we have the power to stop the bleeding. Much of the recent run-up in oil prices is driven by political instability in the Middle East and the fear it has stoked of supply shortages. Meanwhile, a sea of oil reserves sits untapped in America and off our coasts, including off the coast of Virginia.
The prospect of millions of barrels of secure American oil coming online in the future would help to ease concerns about supply and lead to lower energy prices today. Yet the Obama administration has stifled new energy development throughout the country. In the Gulf of Mexico, it has slowed the flow of permits on shallow and deep-water drilling to a trickle. And it eliminated plans to tap Virginia's offshore energy reserves, which the Southeast Energy Alliance estimated could create nearly 2,000 jobs and produce enough oil and natural gas to fuel our cars and heat our homes in Virginia for years to come.
In the increasingly crowded global marketplace, America cannot compete without an affordable, secure and reliable supply of energy. The administration must answer why it is better for us to remain beholden to the whims of unstable dictatorships than it is for us to maximize our own domestic energy resources. Why is it better for us to export jobs and economic growth abroad rather than put people to work in America?
Safety and environmental concerns are legitimate and must be addressed. That much we can all agree on. We also must take advantage of every natural resource at our disposal, including cleaner alternatives such as natural gas, nuclear, solar and wind. Continued innovation will increase the amount of renewable energy we incorporate into our daily lives.
But any serious and candid conversation about our energy future must allow that oil will remain a critical component.
In America, we have some of the cleanest and most innovative drilling technology in the world. From a global environmental standpoint, it makes no sense to outsource oil production to often-corrupt countries with poor environmental track records. Who is likely to produce a barrel of oil in a more eco-friendly fashion, America or Nigeria?
Also detrimental to the goal of energy independence is the administration's regulatory assault on oil refineries. Hammering refiners with a barrage of new overreaching regulations under the Clean Air Act will serve as a burdensome new tax that will be passed on to consumers. If the goal is to chase American refining capacity and droves of jobs abroad, then the president's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) might succeed. Either way, the result will be higher gasoline prices for families and businesses.
It's time for America to get serious about our energy future. House Republicans are taking the lead by proposing to reopen Virginia for offshore energy development and exploration, while setting firm timelines for the Interior Department to take up applications to drill in a safe, responsible and transparent manner using American technology, innovation and workers.
Overzealous regulatory policy is starving America of the affordable energy necessary for the economy to grow. By sending a clear signal that we are prepared to harness all of our natural resources, we can help break the back of rising gasoline prices and become more secure in our energy needs.