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Obama turns a blind eye on chance to secure true energy independence

For decades, U.S. presidents have made achieving American energy security a top priority.

Now, thanks to the nation’s historic energy resurgence, we finally have the capability to make good on the promise. But the Obama administration is turning a blind eye to the once-in-a-generation opportunities before us.

The failure to approve the Keystone XL pipeline is a symbol of a national energy policy headed in the wrong direction. The pipeline represents a major leap forward for energy security, adding 830,000 barrels of oil per day to our supply.

Seven years of exhaustive study and five positive reviews from the State Department demonstrate beyond all reasonable doubt that Keystone XL would be safe for the environment.

If that’s not enough, look to the original Keystone pipeline, which recently delivered its 1 billionth barrel of oil.

Unlike Keystone XL, the first leg of the Keystone system wasn’t turned into a political football. It received a presidential permit in less than two years and has been safely operating for five.

Since then, the Keystone system has contributed almost $200 million in property taxes and generated 14,000 construction jobs in 11 states and provinces. The economic impact of the Keystone XL expansion would be even greater – supporting 42,000 jobs that would put $2 billion in workers’ pockets. But all that is being held hostage in the interests of placating a small minority of protesters who are vastly outnumbered by the strong, bipartisan majority of voters who want to build Keystone XL.

American workers also are missing out because of the nation’s outdated export policies. Banning crude exports might have made sense in the wake of the 1970s oil embargo. But now that the United States leads the world in oil and natural gas production, it’s become a costly relic.

A recent Harvard Business School study found that lifting export restrictions could add $23 billion to the GDP and around 125,000 new U.S. jobs by 2030. Numerous studies project that allowing crude exports will result in lower gasoline prices for American drivers by further stabilizing world crude supply.

Security leaders from both political parties agree that crude exports can enhance America’s national security.

Leon Panetta, CIA director and secretary of defense under President Obama, and Stephen Hadley, national security adviser under President George W. Bush, joined forces for an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal stating, “The moment has come for the U.S. to deploy its oil and gas in support of its security interests around the world.”

Instead of focusing on “how much military power should be deployed to the Middle East,” they write, “America’s abundance of oil and natural gas” should be recognized as “a powerful, non-lethal tool” for advancing our security interests.

As we move closer to lifting the ban on Iranian oil resources, restricting American competitiveness and influence by banning our own exports makes even less sense.

On top of policies that restrict energy opportunities, an onslaught of new regulations threatens to stifle production outright.

Even though ozone levels have dropped 33 percent since 1980, the Obama administration is finalizing new standards that could restrict virtually any economic activity – from building highways to hospitals.

Further tightening standards to levels close to or even below naturally occurring background levels of ozone could cost the economy $140 billion per year and put millions of jobs at risk, according to a study from the National Association of Manufacturers.

With Congress considering the first major energy legislation since America’s energy resurgence began in earnest, we have the opportunity to get U.S. energy policy back on track – creating thousands of jobs and making the nation more secure in the process. It’s time to move energy policy into the 21st century.

Jack Gerard is president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, the national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry. He holds a bachelor’s in political science and a law degree from George Washington University.