By Phil Gingrey
As the world continues watching historic events unfold across the world, here at home we are feeling increasingly uneasy as oil and gas prices climb. With our nation so heavily reliant upon foreign energy sources, unpredictable international climates will continue to wreak havoc on our wallets unless we take action.
When Egypt erupted in chaos, world oil prices spiked. As political turmoil spread to Libya, prices rocketed even higher. Now, as Japan continues working to contain the crisis caused by an earthquake-tsunami one-two punch, it is clearer than ever that instability abroad is spreading, and uncontrollable factors affecting our energy supplies are inevitable. While the magnitude of this unrest has taken the world by surprise, the market is left feeling uncertain amid slowing global oil supplies.
Yet in the wake of this turmoil, the Obama administration remains committed to a complacent energy policy. This limits our ability to access domestic energy supplies by keeping them off limits, undermining our energy security as we face a new energy crisis.
But there is a way to alleviate this uncertainty. We need to take another look at our own energy resources. We have abundant and diverse sources of energy that -- if utilized -- can significantly decrease our reliance on foreign oil, create American jobs and boost our economy.
One clear way to increase U.S. energy security is to expand drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and in other offshore locations. In the Gulf alone, independent experts project that by 2020, deepwater oil production could account for 30 percent of total U.S. production and nearly 95 percent of offshore production.
The administration, however, has marked these areas as off-limits by refusing to issue deepwater drilling permits. The consequences of this lethargy are profound. According to the Energy Information Administration, domestic oil production will fall by 240,000 barrels per day by 2012, forcing America to import an extra 88 million barrels per year at a cost of at least $8 billion.
Absorbing this cost will be necessary because whether skeptics like it or not, our energy needs will be based on oil and gas for the foreseeable future. Despite rapid growth in renewables, the Obama Energy Department projects that by 2035, oil and natural gas will still account for 57 percent of domestic energy consumption.
It goes without saying that during these trying economic times, this is a strategy we shouldn't have to pursue and money we shouldn't need to spend. If we were to expand our domestic production, we'd have the potential to create more than 1 million jobs and the ability to generate trillions of dollars in economic output.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration remains more concerned with placating environmental extremists than in addressing elevated energy prices. In order to meet this challenge, I believe we need to pursue an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy. This means more drilling, but it also means supporting the development of safe nuclear, renewable and other alternative energy sources.
It also means more effectively using our onshore resources. Continuing work on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and developing the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska would greatly increase our production of oil. In addition to Alaska, the Rocky Mountains and Western U.S. hold half of the world's oil shale resources. This can be converted to crude oil using new technology. But because of regulations imposed by the administration, investment in these areas also has declined significantly.
Developing alternative means of energy is also a key component to relying less on foreign sources. Nuclear power plants, wind farms, solar panels and biomass facilities are just a few ways we produce the electricity needed to power everyday American life. By making it easier to develop and invest in sources like theses, we can generate clean energy and promote economic growth.
Through using our own resources and diversifying our means of energy production, we can improve our energy security while fostering economic development. We can't continue to use "quick fixes" or depend solely on OPEC and foreign oil-rich nations.
Left unchecked, escalating oil prices will have devastating consequences for our economic recovery. Working families already feel the squeeze at the gas pump, and some analysts predict that we may see $4- to $5-a-gallon gas by the end of the year. At that point, any momentum toward an economic recovery will be undermined.
Our energy woes exist largely because many don't view our vast and diverse supplies of energy as assets. The Obama administration can continue to roll the dice and hope that foreign calamities will have no impact on our energy security, but the house always wins.
We need to stop gambling on our future and start increasing domestic energy production to protect our economic vitality and the security of our country.