- - Wednesday, July 3, 2013

About seven years ago, I had the opportunity to tour Devil’s Tower, an offshore drilling platform 140 miles southeast of New Orleans. It was an enriching experience learning how technology and human ingenuity come together to safely harvest resources from the depths of our oceans that are used to power our homes, cars and businesses.

What was even more educational, though, was seeing all the various industries and people that come together to make this venture a reality. After touring the platform, I drove across Highway 90 and saw business after business servicing the offshore operations. I saw welders and pipe fitters, truck drivers and restaurant servers, barge operators and hotel workers. As amazed as I was by what was taking place offshore, it was what was happening onshore that really caught my eye. I saw firsthand that energy creates jobs, and that we need to do everything we can to embrace all-American energy here in the United States.

It is in order to free and grow our energy economy that the House recently passed H.R. 1613, the Outer Continental Shelf Transboundary Hydrocarbon Agreement. This legislation would implement a first-of-its-kind agreement with the government of Mexico to develop shared resources located between our two countries in the Gulf of Mexico. It would open roughly 1.5 million acres in the Gulf for production, and it would help create American jobs and grow our economy in the process.

According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the U.S. State Department, these areas are estimated to contain 172 million barrels of oil and 304 billion cubic feet of natural gas, a considerable amount that will lessen our dependence on Middle Eastern sources of energy. The agreement also prioritizes safety by requiring that all operations in the region conform to U.S. safety standards, and it establishes a framework for possible future arrangements with neighboring countries such as Canada. Simply put, this legislation is a win-win for our country and received bipartisan support in committee and on the House floor. In fact, a recent editorial in the Greenville News stated, “the subject of energy security demands and invites bipartisanship; it is difficult to disagree on a bill that clearly benefits everyone involved.”

As a country, we have long held the goal of achieving American energy independence. We need to do everything we can to reach that goal through an all-of-the-above energy strategy, but if we’re unable to attain that goal immediately, we ought to take the step toward achieving North American energy independence. We have a great opportunity to do that with the Keystone XL pipeline with Canada to the north, and with this transboundary agreement with Mexico to the south. By fostering energy production here at home with our allies, not only are we able to make our country more prosperous economically, but we also make it more energy-secure.

President Obama’s new energy policy, which he outlined during an address at Georgetown last week, quite simply cannot exist in reality. Seventy-three percent of our nation’s power comes from oil, natural gas and coal, all of which the president wants to extensively regulate. The challenge of achieving national energy independence becomes that much more daunting with the president’s war on coal seeking to end coal as a fuel source. If the president’s plan were enacted, Americans who are already struggling can expect even more hardship.

We need a common-sense, all-of-the-above approach to energy, and that is exactly what House Republicans have done. We want to implement this transboundary agreement and safely expand offshore drilling throughout the United States. The House has done its job, and now it is time for the Senate to do the same.

While there’s no shortage of things to fight over in Washington, energy should be an area in which we come together for the benefit of the country. Supporting wind power doesn’t mean opposing offshore drilling; the two are not mutually exclusive. If we are going to build an energy economy in the United States, we must do so through an all-of-the-above approach to energy. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The House has taken that first step, and now is the time for the Senate to adopt this transboundary agreement.

Rep. Jeff Duncan is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina.

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