- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Recently, Rick Santorum secured unexpected victories in a heated Republican primary season when voters remain bitterly divided. In advance of these victories, Mr. Santorum made increasing domestic energy a cornerstone of his campaign, highlighting the issue in remarks he delivered at the Colorado Energy Summit.

He wasn’t alone. Newt Gingrich, who also has made increasing domestic energy a critical component of his vision for the nation, outlined at the summit a series of steps we should take to reduce our dependence on foreign energy. The GOP presidential candidates’ message focused on the premise that the responsible development of our nation’s energy resources is one of our greatest opportunities. Just two weeks earlier, President Obama noted in his State of the Union address, “Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy.” This is encouraging for American families, farms and businesses that all depend on a secure, reliable and affordable energy supply to grow and prosper. Given these statements as well as increased global instability and energy scarcity, it is clear that a balanced energy policy capitalizing on domestic resources will be one of the driving issues in the 2012 election.

The idea that a robust energy policy has escaped our elected leaders for generations is puzzling and defies common sense. Too often, our nation’s energy portfolio is treated as a political game of chess, which has led to supply instability, subjected us to severe and significant price shocks and caused frequent disruptions in American commerce. At this point in our history, these outcomes are no longer bearable. As the nation struggles to emerge from the recession and the world becomes increasingly hostile, it is imperative that we harness our true energy potential. This basic and intuitive concept is shared by a large majority of Americans, with some polls showing an astounding 94 percent approval rate for increased domestic energy production.

In addition to historic levels of public support for domestic energy production, the industry’s ability to produce affordable energy has never been greater. According to the Institute for Energy Research’s North American Energy Inventory, the United States holds more than 1.4 trillion barrels of technically recoverable oil and 2.7 quadrillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. Additional studies show that advancements in energy-extraction technologies, such as hydraulic fracturing, have made it possible for North America to achieve energy independence by 2030. What’s more, in just a few short years, these technological innovations have begun to reverse a decades-long crumbling of our nation’s manufacturing industry and have provided significant benefits to American consumers.

Just as important, the prospect of the United States saving nearly $252 billion a year by significantly reducing oil imports and finally freeing itself from the whims of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is no longer a pipe dream; it’s a reality. And it’s one that’s right at our doorstep.

The only missing piece to this puzzle, it seems, is leadership from our nation’s highest office and the candidates who hope to occupy that office. Our presidential contenders must grasp this concept and commit themselves to seeing it implemented if our nation is to continue on its very real path to true energy independence.

Regardless of who prevails as the Republican candidate or who is sworn into office in 2013, the need for a clear, inclusive and aggressive energy policy is clear. Without it, we risk paralyzing our nation’s progress, suffocating our economic success and sacrificing our national security to foreign regimes that do not have our best interests in mind. The time for a robust, smart and inclusive energy policy is now, and it is up to American consumers, businesses, ranchers and farmers to ensure that our elected leaders and political candidates hear this message.

David Holt is president of the Consumer Energy Alliance.

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