Opportunity, jobs, investment, economic growth – all are in the balance as America chooses it course on energy development. Thanks to the U.S. energy revolution, built on surging production of oil and natural gas from shale and other tight-rock formations, for the first time in decades Americans can choose the energy narrative instead of having it dictated to them.

jg_politicoThese themes were highlighted during “The Great Energy Debate” hosted by Politico. With congressional mid-term elections coming this fall, the discussion is timely and so very important to what could be an historic choice. API President and CEO Jack Gerard framed the conversation:

“Few would have thought just five short years ago that the United States today is the world’s No. 1 natural gas producer, surpassing Russia. It is expected that in the next two years we will surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s No. 1 oil producer. … The great energy debate should transcend partisanship. It should go well beyond the historic debates of the past to get us to where as a nation we’re truly looking as perhaps an unprecedented opportunity to become the world’s superpower in energy. …  America’s energy, America’s choice. We believe it’s that fundamental – for not only will we get great opportunity to create new jobs in the country, put people back to work producing our energy, but today in the geopolitical considerations around the world we have the ability to alter that by exerting our influence. … We have a chance of a lifetime.”

The challenge for policymakers is selecting the path that will harness this great energy opportunity. That means a pro-development approach to domestic energy that safely and responsibly capitalizes on vast oil and natural gas reserves, fosters investment in energy infrastructure and that makes strategic decisions that are in America’s national interest – like building the Keystone XL pipeline, which enjoys overwhelming support from the American people. Former Sen. Blanche Lambert Lincoln was part of the event’s political panel:

“We’re in a unique opportunity time right now, bringing back our economy, and businesses and industries that are based in this country and that are based in other countries – do they want to come here because of those opportunities? They’re watching to see how are we going to handle this incredible blessing, this incredible opportunity of energy that we have in this country and what it could mean to putting people back to work, what it could mean to growing our economy and things that we want to invest in. Growing that economy would mean that we would be able to put money and resources into the things that mean something to us. … The Keystone pipeline – my gosh, you’ve got Bush and Clinton supporting it. … We talk until the cows come home about improving infrastructure and putting resources into infrastructure. It’s what we need.”

harbertKaren Harbert (right), president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy:

“The Keystone XL, what, 70 percent of the American people agree on the Keystone XL. They support it, the House supported it. And yet we can’t get anything done. I think there’s general frustration. We’ve got lots of opportunities to put people back to work … but we’re just saying no. Are we open for business? … Are we going to be in the energy business or not?”

U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia (below, left) and John Hoeven of North Dakota (below, right) joined the discussion with Lincoln (center) and talked about regulatory approaches that are hurting energy investment. Hoeven said red tape is tying up “billions and billions” in potential investments in energy, while Manchin said environmental regulation needs to pass “real world” tests in terms of costs vs. benefits and common sense. Hoeven:

“Instead of holding up investment that will produce more energy with the latest, greatest technology, better environmental stewardship, let’s get this administration and Congress to empower that investment.”

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Ultimately, American voters will weigh in on a number of these issues, in the candidates they choose and in various initiatives to be decided at the state and local level. Oil and natural gas reliably fuel our economy while making modern living possible. Even more, they offer the United States a generational chance to drive economic growth while making our country safer in the world by producing more of the energy we need right here at home. Harbert said voters will consider these points in upcoming elections:

“If you look at energy … there’s more commonality about we want to do more to have self-sufficiency in this country, and I think they will be looking at that and asking candidates where they come out on that. We all know we’ve got to find more ways to employ more people in this country, we’ve got to find more revenues in this country. … If you look at the energy industry, it has a huge opportunity to contribute more to both of those structural problems in our economy.”