Energy continues to play a large role in the presidential debates – evidence that both candidates get the importance of reliable, affordable energy for our economy and for making America more secure, now and in the future.
Early in the Hofstra University debate, President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney had a spirited conversation about domestic oil and natural gas production. The president:
“We’ve got to control our own energy…We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years. Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades.”
Then, while talking about an energy portfolio that also includes wind, solar and biofuels, the president said:
“I want to build on that. And that means, yes, we still continue to open up new areas for drilling. We continue to make a — it a priority for us to go after natural gas. We’ve got potentially 600,000 jobs and a hundred years’ worth of energy right beneath our feet with natural gas. And we can do it in an environmentally sound way.”
“I want to make sure we use our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear, our renewables. I believe very much in our renewable capabilities – ethanol, wind, solar will be an important part of our energy mix. … Let's take advantage of the energy resources we have, as well as the energy sources for the future. And if we do that, if we do what I'm planning on doing, which is getting us energy independent, North America energy independence within eight years, you're going to see manufacturing jobs come back. Because our energy is low cost, that are already beginning to come back because of our abundant energy. I'll get America and North America energy independent. I'll do it by more drilling, more permits and licenses. We're going to bring that pipeline in from Canada.”
Key points: Domestic oil and natural gas production is up – the result of a revolution in energy development in America’s shale plays, made possible by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Imports have decreased with growth in domestic output, but we can do more – and in the process create 1.4 million new jobs by 2030.
North American energy security is within reach if we implement the right polices: Increased drilling on public lands – in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, for example – and off America’s coasts and in the Gulf of Mexico. Americans get this – 7 in 10 support increased access to domestic oil and natural gas resources, according to a recent poll.
We can also build the Keystone XL pipeline mentioned by Gov. Romney, to bring more crude from Canada’s oil sands. Combined with increased biofuels production, we could see 100 percent of our liquid fuel needs met domestically and from Canada by 2024. That’s what energy security looks like.
This also will require a sensible approach to regulation, federal leasing and permitting and tax policy. All would help create a stable investment climate in which oil and natural gas companies can expand energy development. With uncertainty – over whether energy-rich areas will be available for leasing, over how long it might take to get a federal drilling permit, over whether oil and gas companies will be singled out for higher taxes – energy investment and development will be hindered.
This is especially crucial for continued development of our shale resources. The president is right: Natural gas from shale offers the prospect of hundreds of thousands of new jobs, state and regional economic growth and a century – or more – of affordable, clean-burning fuel. But only if safe and responsible development can proceed, unencumbered by unnecessary new regulation from Washington that merely overlays effective state rules.
America is energy rich, but those riches must be explored and developed – and will be if we don’t stop ourselves. These are serious issues and, again, it’s good to see both candidates discussing them seriously.