We need a domestic energy solution to reduce dependence on foreign oil

With gas prices climbing and projected to rise beyond $4 per gallon by spring, the ripple effects are on the way too. Higher energy costs mean higher food prices, potential job losses for small businesses and less money for families to meet their basic needs. 

The erratic rise and fall of gas prices is a direct result of poor energy policies and America’s unhealthy reliance on energy from unstable regions of the world. The recent escalation of tensions between Iran and Western nations has resulted in a threat to close the Strait of Hormuz. This strait is a critical pathway for a huge portion of global oil. As a Navy aviator who flew over the Strait of Hormuz, I know firsthand the importance of this region to the world’s energy supply. Iran knows it too, which is why it has threatened to shut down the strait — threats that have a direct impact on today’s oil prices.

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We know the instability in the Middle East causes volatility in markets. What’s the solution? Reduce our reliance on this region for our oil. America needs a comprehensive energy policy that allows us to develop more of our own resources here at home, allow the Keystone XL pipeline to go forward without delay and give America true energy independence.

President Obama has repeatedly declared that America needs an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. Yet his words do not match his actions. His administration has issued rule after rule to stifle energy production and increase the cost of developing domestic energy. 

The most recent example is the Bureau of Land Management’s dramatic scaling back of a plan to develop domestic resources by reducing the available acreage for oil-shale and oil-sands development by about three-fourths in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. The Environmental Protection Agency is also feverishly trying to tie hydraulic fracturing to contamination in groundwater. Yet, each time it has been proven wrong — at a great expense to the very industry that is revolutionizing domestic energy production.

In Texas, the EPA usurped state authority in a groundwater case involving hydraulic fracturing by issuing an emergency order to take over the state’s investigation. It also sent an alert to the environmental community prior to its public announcement, claiming it was about to “make big news” before producing any evidence that groundwater contamination was linked to hydraulic fracturing. Last December, the EPA released a preliminary report that “theorized” hydraulic fracturing in the Pavillion, Wyo., area “may have” caused chemical contamination of “some” water wells. But there has been no independent verification of this conclusion, and the EPA itself admits there is no direct connection. 

Hydraulic fracturing has been used to extract gas from wells for 50 years without a single confirmed contamination report. States have exercised appropriate oversight, and are best suited to monitor the energy-development efforts of their individual states. Texas has some of the strictest disclosure requirements in the country. Yet the Obama administration has systematically worked to slow down, if not stop, the use of fracturing. This process, if allowed to develop properly, will drastically reduce our need to import oil from volatile regions and hostile nations.

In the meantime, we could begin to reduce our Middle East imports sooner if the president would approve the Canadian Keystone XL pipeline now. If the United States continues to stall, China is lined up to take our place and take that crude. 

It was also reported this week that China is buying up Saudi Arabian oil, while negotiating further deals with Iran. Iran faces harsh U.S. economic sanctions and an oil embargo from the European Union. All of this means that oil prices will continue to escalate on a global scale.

The president can reduce our reliance on unstable foreign sources of oil by approving the Keystone XL pipeline, opening up more of our own domestic resources for development and ensuring that the federal government plays an appropriate role in these operations. All of these actions will reduce our reliance on unstable nations for oil, create high-paying American jobs, bring millions in revenue into the federal Treasury and strengthen our national security. My colleagues and I in the House will continue to push for a comprehensive energy policy that achieves these goals.

Olson is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.


The Hill Special Report: Energy & Environment
♦ Sen. Bingaman: Time short to save clean-energy jobs
♦ Sen. Shaheen: Energy efficiency is good policy, good for economy
♦ Sen. Boxer: Attack on environment continues
♦ Rep. Hastings: Actions louder than words for Obama on energy
♦ Rep. Markey: Drill here, sell there, pay more
♦ Rep. Whitfield: White House is all talk on its energy strategy
♦ Rep. Latta: Obama doesn’t back up his energy rhetoric