- - Thursday, July 2, 2015

The United States is closer than ever before to fulfilling the vision of our Founding Fathers. By achieving energy independence, we can achieve freedom from foreign influence.

Yet on the basis of alarmist and groundless claims, the Obama administration is balking on two key elements of this new energy security: hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — and offshore drilling on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.

By doing so, the administration is proving itself unworthy of the legacy and pioneering spirit of our nation.

America’s forebears took huge risks when they crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of a better life — and they took an ever bigger risk when they declared independence from an oppressive and very powerful king. They were bold and intrepid, and their indomitable spirit led to the founding of a great nation.

Were they alive today, our forefathers would be ashamed to see the cowardly reluctance to embrace fracking and offshore drilling — despite the proven safety of both and the clear economic and national security benefits.

Environmental activists have trumpeted the supposed risks of these techniques. Critics assert that they risk air and water quality, and pose a danger to workers, local communities and wildlife.

But these claims are completely baseless.

A recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that fracking poses no risk to drinking water. Studies from the Department of Energy and the U.S. Geological Survey have supported the EPA’s finding.

Current energy development is safer than ever. New research has led to better well designs and improved sub-sea equipment. Offshore pipelines include computers and sensors to detect structural weaknesses. And marine vessels, terminals and storage tanks have all been upgraded.

History proves this point. Since 1975, according to the Manhattan Institute, offshore drilling within 200 miles of U.S. coasts has had a safety record of better than 99.9 percent.

Activists forget that nothing worthwhile is ever entirely risk-free. In fact, our country’s history is full of individuals with the courage to press ahead — in the face of grave risk — in pursuit of great achievement.

Our current approach is anything but courageous and pioneering; it is hesitant and weak-kneed. If George Washington had exhibited such an attitude, he would have told his troops to fold their tents and go home during the horrible winter at Valley Forge in 1777 — if he had ever taken on the role of commander in chief of the Continental Army in the first place.

When it comes to U.S. energy development, we need to stop giving risk more weight than it’s due. Developing the Outer Continental Shelf would result in a $24 billion gain for the U.S. economy and 280,000 new jobs. Unfounded assertions and fears about risks should not stand in the way of what could be an even bigger boon for our country: true U.S. energy independence.

Although the Obama administration has issued a draft proposal for a new 2017 to 2022 oil- and gas-leasing program for the Outer Continental Shelf, its approach is overly cautious. This is typical of an administration that allows its agenda to be driven more by fears and emotion than by facts and reason.

U.S. energy policy should not be determined by the warrantless claims and shrill cries of environmentalists. Instead, America should fully embrace the development of U.S. energy resources — including by fracking and offshore drilling.

In doing so, we can fortify the economy, reduce America’s dependence on dangerous foreign sources of oil, strengthen our national security — and live up to the great heritage of American exceptionalism established by our Founding Fathers.

William L. Schachte Jr., a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral, is a chairman for Vets4Energy.

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