Time for an energy policy for the 21st century

During the 1970s, fears of “peak oil” drove policymakers to rethink our nation’s energy policy. The idea that America was running out of precious energy supplies was generally accepted as fact. In response to this energy crisis, leaders in Washington implemented an energy strategy aimed at phasing out traditional energy sources and spending more on developing alternatives. But over the last few years, the energy landscape has dramatically changed. America has experienced a massive energy boom, in large part due to advancements in technology and innovation, defying previous notions of resource scarcity and putting the goal of North American energy independence closer to reality. 

But while our nation’s energy outlook has improved, our energy policies have failed to keep pace. To fully embrace the benefits of America’s newfound energy abundance, it’s time for Washington to adopt a new, more modern energy strategy.  

According to new data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. crude production will continue to increase sharply over the next decade because of new shale and tight oil discoveries, with production reaching up to 7.5 million barrels per day in 2019. The International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook predicts the United States will eclipse Saudi Arabia as the word’s largest oil producer before 2020 and overtake Russia as the world’s largest gas producer as soon as 2015. Already, the United States holds the largest recoverable reserves of coal and is second only to China in coal production. According to the Institute for Energy Research, with 486 billion short tons of technically recoverable coal reserves, the U.S. can supply its electricity demand for coal for almost 500 years at current usage rates.

This abundance of domestic energy has the potential to transform our economy, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, reverse our trade deficit and increase government revenues, all while delivering affordable energy to American consumers and companies. And all one has to do is look at the recent terrorist attack on an Algerian gas plant to understand that the national security implications are great as well. Increased domestic oil production is already reducing our imports from hostile countries overseas. 

We are entering a new energy era in America, but our federal policies are lagging behind. America’s energy renaissance is occurring in spite of President Obama’s policies, not because of them. The Congressional Research Service estimates that 96 percent of the oil production increase in the U.S. since 2007 has taken place on non-federal lands. The president’s misleading claim that we possess only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves ignores our vast untapped resources, and his rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrates an unwillingness to move forward. 

The administration’s misguided “all of the above but nothing from below” approach treats our abundant hydrocarbons as a hazardous energy source of the past, not worthy of the future. The simple truth is that even as we continue to utilize more hydrocarbons for energy production, including those produced here domestically, carbon emissions are at their lowest levels in 20 years and continue to show signs of decreasing. Hydrocarbons are the path to an economically prosperous future, and we should be doing all we can to ensure plentiful and affordable supplies.

We need a true “all of the above” energy strategy that allows all energy sources — coal, oil, gas, nuclear and renewables — to compete. The House Energy and Commerce Committee worked tirelessly during the 112th Congress to advance common-sense solutions to help ensure American energy supplies remain affordable and readily available. We advanced legislation to expedite construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, expand access to domestic energy supplies, accelerate permitting for resource exploration and production and block costly new regulations that threaten to drive up energy prices and destroy jobs. 

We are even more resolved in the 113th Congress to develop bipartisan solutions to ensure Americans have affordable energy supplies for decades to come. This week, the Energy and Power subcommittee commenced a series of hearings on “American Energy Security and Innovation” to showcase the country’s rich energy resources and commonsense policies that we should be pursuing for the betterment of our nation. 

America has been blessed with the gift of energy abundance, and it is our job as lawmakers to ensure we have the right policies in place to responsibly develop these resources to help foster economic growth. We have a great story to tell, and our diverse, abundant resources should be embraced, rather than spurned.

It’s time to move beyond the status quo and revamp our energy policies for the 21st century. It’s time to achieve North American energy independence.

Whitfield is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Energy and Power.