- - Thursday, June 17, 2010

As a conservationist, I have long understood the condition of the air, soil and water is an important barometer by which we can measure our own health and priorities as a society and culture.

It was not too distant in our past that American rivers literally caught fire. Our cities were covered in smog from smoke stacks and automobiles that belched pollution.

Largely through American innovation, entrepreneurship and a national commitment to improve the environment, things have changed dramatically for the better. Our air is cleaner, our water more pure.

And while cleaner air, soil and water continue to be the goal, I am also an energy pragmatist. Green energy - wind, solar and hydro - will not meet our tremendous energy demands today or tomorrow - possibly ever.

The lifeblood of America continues to be petroleum and will be so for many years to come. That is an inescapable reality.

One of the reasons BP was drilling a mile underwater in the Gulf is that it and other petroleum companies have been pushed further and further away from our energy-rich coasts by so-called environmentalists and short-sighted politicians. We have vast energy riches off our coasts on the Outer Continental Shelf, the Gulf and off the coast of California - energy that the federal government forbids us to extract.

This is maddening considering that, according to President Obama, we send a billion dollars a day to other countries to meet our energy demands when it is estimated by the Minerals and Management Service that there is 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas on the Outer Continental Shelf alone.

Failing to harness this energy is bad policy, harms our ability to be energy independent and continues to keep America addicted to energy from countries that don’t like us all that much.

This does not mean America should not look for other forms of energy to quench our thirst for power. However, we must not rush to embrace alternative forms of energy without first doing due diligence.

Green energy may sound appealing and alluring, but the reality is much different. We currently get about 5 percent of our energy from wind, solar and hydro energy. There is little evidence to suggest this will dramatically increase in the coming years. This, too, is a reality.

As I outlined last year in my book “Ted, White, and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto,” what we should do is embrace nuclear power. It is the cleanest, safest and most efficient of all energy in the history of mankind, and yet the president rarely mentions it as a key pillar to satisfy our thirst for energy. Until he fully embraces and endorses nuclear energy, he will not be taken seriously by those of us who seek energy independence.

In his Oval Office address on the Gulf oil spill, the president stated he wants us to move forward with green energy and believes more government regulation of the oil companies is prudent. This policy will virtually guarantee outrageously higher, likely crippling energy costs across the board for American companies and citizens.

We should pause to remember that government regulations are the key reason America has not built a new oil refinery or nuclear power plant in more than 30 years. This is a perfect example of government policies and regulations that strangles, stifles and retards progress.

As do most other conservatives, I support reasonable, pragmatic and measurable government policy that is managed by even smarter and pragmatic regulators.

The problem is not that we don’t have enough regulation, but rather that we have too much. America is drowning in stacks of regulations that are written by a multitude of bureaucrats in various federal, state and local agencies and departments. We should enforce our existing regulations before arguing for even more regulations and control.

We need a realistic energy vision, a target to shoot for. Similar to President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon, I believe the goal should be for America to be completely energy independent in 10 years. We can do this with the proper leadership, national commitment and if we have a realistic approach to meeting our energy demands.

Unleash the genius that is the American entrepreneurship; don’t strangle it.

Ted Nugent is an unstoppable American rock ‘n’ roll, sporting and political activist icon. He is author of “Ted, White & Blue: The Nugent Manifesto” and “God, Guns and Rock ‘N’ Roll” (Regnery Publishing).

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