Veering Toward Another Energy Crisis


Date: Jan. 17, 2012
Issues: Oil and Gas

We continue to move backwards instead of forward with regard to becoming an energy independent nation. It is clear energy independence has never been a high priority for the Obama Administration despite a weak economy, heightened unemployment levels and rising energy costs. And, when given the opportunity, Americans have seen a lack of leadership by President Obama to make the responsible decisions to promote and protect America's existing energy supplies. Thus it is no surprise that the country is veering down the road towards another energy crisis.

Failing to make definitive choices is nothing new for President Obama, with the latest example being his refusal to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline project. The proposed pipeline from Alberta, Canada to refineries 1,700 miles away in Texas would carry an estimated 700,000 barrels of crude oil a day. It would create thousands of new and needed jobs while reducing our dependence on oil from nations that are not America's friends, particularly Venezuela and the Middle East.

With millions of Americans out of work and energy prices on the rise again, this is a win-win solution that President Obama continues to oppose. It has passed Congress with my vote and strong bipartisan backing. A majority of Americans support the job-creating pipeline yet the President continues to be unconvinced. In fact, because of the President's political calculation to delay any decision on Keystone until 2013, the Canadian Prime Minister has begun negotiations with China to build a pipeline completely within Canada's borders, giving China access to this vital energy resource which strengthens their economic influence while hurting that of the United States.

Similarly, the Interior Department has continued to slow-walk permits for additional onshore and offshore drilling, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico and off of Alaska. Since April 2010, eleven deepwater drilling rigs have left the Gulf, taking with them an estimated $21.4 billion in investments and tens of thousands of jobs. Our domestic production capacity and the issuing of new permits has measurably decreased under the Obama Administration, thus dropping the U.S. projected share of worldwide oil and natural gas investment in 2011 by six percent. Furthermore, with existing wells limited, the need to further develop domestic sources is critical.

I have long advocated for a comprehensive national plan to achieve real energy independence. I've called for casting a wide and diverse net, including further developing alternative energy sources, encouraging smarter technologies and conservation efforts, and broadening domestic production of oil and natural gas reserves. Last year American consumers paid record-prices for gasoline, an average of $3.56 per gallon according to the Energy Information Administration. To compare, in 2010 the average cost was $2.90. Forecasts for 2012 predict another record-breaking year, in part because of rising tensions with Iran's threats to block the Strait of Hormuz -- a major shipping route. Those threats alone sent oil prices up by 2 percent in December.

Within a global economy, it is impossible to control all factors that dictate the prices of oil and gasoline on the energy markets. However, actions that can and should be taken to promote U.S. energy independence -- approving the Keystone XL Pipeline and expanding domestic energy capacity -- will have measureable impact in stabilizing energy prices for American consumers while strengthening our national security. It just takes a strong leader to make those decisions that are clearly in the best interests of the country.