- - Friday, September 7, 2012

Historians will be perplexed when they look back at America’s first years in the 21st century. They will see a country rich in natural resources, populated by people possessing great intellect and technological prowess, and an administration that could have dug the United States out of a jobless economic recovery but was immobilized by ideology.

The historians will wonder why — at a time when household incomes were falling and an estimated 23 million Americans were out of work or underemployed — President Obama squandered most of his first term on a flawed health care plan and failed cap-and-trade legislation. They also will ask why he tried to solve the economic crisis by spending money on wasteful programs rather than putting people back to work in the private sector, dealt with the rising deficit by printing more money and addressed the nation’s energy needs by making it harder than ever to develop America’s traditional energy supplies.

Only when viewed through the prism of a big-government-will-solve-all-your-problems philosophy or college president Dinesh D’Souza’s theory that Mr. Obama is channeling his Kenyan father’s anti-colonial agenda do the president’s decisions make sense. In either case, 50 years from now the president’s first term is likely to be viewed as a time when U.S. economic progress was hindered by a series of counterproductive decisions, leading one to ask: “Forward” to what?

It’s clear that the administration is not moving forward to greater U.S. energy security. The president has rejected the full construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, ignored calls from coastal state governors to open more offshore areas to oil and natural gas development and urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promulgate regulations that have nearly stopped coal mining and are threatening the existence of coal-burning power plants. The administration also has squandered billions of taxpayer dollars on questionable and uncompetitive renewable-energy projects.

Yet, the United States is endowed with abundant natural energy resources that are simply waiting to be harvested. With today’s technologies, America is able to tap its own energy resources, which include some of the largest oil and natural gas supplies in the world. U.S. oil and gas resources are 10 times larger than China’s and 24 percent larger than Saudi Arabia’s. These figures do not include the estimated 800 billion barrels of thick, kerogen-type oil found in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

U.S. offshore areas alone are estimated to contain 101 billion barrels of oil and 480 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, but 85 percent of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf is off-limits. Another 89 billion barrels of oil and nearly 655 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are believed to exist in 33 states, according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). But 60 percent of onshore federal lands are closed to development.

If the administration were to open America’s energy-rich areas to development and approve the Keystone pipeline, 1.4 million energy industry jobs could be created by 2030, according to a study by energy consultant Wood Mackenzie. Energy development also would encourage thousands or millions of additional jobs for people who provide steel, sand, gravel, transportation, food and other services to support energy development.

Mitt Romney has adopted a goal of North American energy independence by 2020 — an initiative supported by numerous industry analysts and scholars. Just imagine the economic and security benefits that could accrue from becoming oil-independent.

Furthermore, the United States is an efficient energy consumer. Today the nation uses one-half of the energy required to produce a dollar of gross domestic product as compared to 1980. And while the United States consumes about 20 percent of the world’s total energy, it produces nearly 27 percent of the world’s goods and services, including medicine, food and other products that promote health and well-being globally.

Given these facts, it is astonishing that the administration has turned its back on the opportunities that exist right beneath our feet. Historians are likely to have harsh words for an administration that put ideology before people’s needs both here and abroad.

It’s not too late to reverse these damaging policy decisions. America can drill for its own oil and natural gas. It can create jobs for unemployed workers while protecting the environment. It can continue to refine renewable energy and invest in breakthrough technologies to pave the way toward a sustainable energy future for succeeding generations. It can continue to promote health and well-being worldwide.

Ideology cannot keep the lights on and fuel the economy, but U.S. energy can.

Bob Beauprez is a former Republican member of the House of Representatives from Colorado.