- - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Last month in his final State of the Union Address, President Obama abandoned his belief in an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy policy — one that blends the use of emerging and established energy resources for the American people and the American economy.

It was a big disappointment to the millions of Americans who work directly or indirectly for the oil and natural gas industry in good-paying jobs. Federal and state budget officials must be disappointed too, because the oil and natural gas industry contributes more than $31 billion each year in rents, royalties, bids and taxes.

Rather than backing away, policymakers should accelerate the energy resurgence taking place in the United States today. The revolution is unmistakable along the entire energy spectrum: Plentiful and affordable natural gas is helping to bring back manufacturing jobs that went overseas years ago. New oil deposits have made us less dependent on foreign sources. Last year, U.S. energy producers provided 88 percent of our energy, something we haven’t done in two decades. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are installing solar panels on their homes and selling electricity back to the grid. Energy-efficient products are transforming the way homes are built and maintained. That efficiency has actually reduced U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Now more than ever, we need to support all of these initiatives. Late last year, the president and Congress took one important step in the right direction by lifting the ban on crude oil exports. Allowing American-produced oil to be sold on international markets will benefit consumers, lower gas prices, create new jobs for Americans, and increase revenues for federal, state and local governments to invest in key public projects and priorities.

Today’s energy resurgence and our environmental aspirations are not mutually exclusive. We can continue to invest in solar, wind (both onshore and offshore), geothermal and other emerging resources even as we implement policies, deploy new technologies and adopt enhanced safety procedures that make established resources much cleaner, safer and more secure. When it comes to offshore development, the oil and natural gas industry has formed a new organization, the Center For Offshore Safety, to make sure that the latest advances in safe technologies and policies are shared broadly. While the goal of the oil and natural gas industry is not to have any spill, private industry and public agencies are collaborating to plan for and coordinate responses to accidental spills. Containment systems and other materials are now pre-positioned so we can contain any escaping oil or natural gas quicker and clean it up faster.

The American people will need access to affordable, reliable fossil fuel resources for generations to come. Fortunately, we’re blessed with an abundance of these resources and the only real obstacle to their use is unwise policies and regulations. The fracking revolution continues to unlock huge deposits of oil and natural gas from the mid-Atlantic to the Mountain West. And we don’t really understand the potential of our offshore resources because much of our outer continental shelf (OCS) was last explored more than three decades ago using the technology of that era.

Fortunately, the Interior Department’s 2017-2022 OCS leasing program includes a proposal to reopen portions of the Atlantic Ocean to exploration. Unfortunately, the omission of the rest of the Atlantic, the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific demonstrates a continued lack of long-term vision for energy security and reliability. Studies by Quest Offshore Inc. found that the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific and Atlantic outer continental shelves may contain enough oil and natural gas to add 3.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day to U.S. production. That could create 838,000 new jobs, stimulate $449 billion in new private-sector investment, and generate $200 billion in new revenue for the government. Other nations, including Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Norway, Greenland, Brazil and Ghana, have recognized the energy and economic opportunities off their own shores and are exploring new offshore areas. We need to do the same.

The first votes in the contest to replace Mr. Obama have been cast. We haven’t heard much from the leading candidates about their philosophies toward energy policy, something the American people deserve to know. Hopefully, whoever emerges as the next president will recognize that Americans are going to need both emerging and established forms of energy long into the future and into the terms of their successors as well. “All-of-the-above” was the right strategy when President Obama publicly called for it early in his presidency. It still is today, and it will remain so well into the future. Pursuing all forms of energy for the benefit of the American people, our national security and our economy should remain a part of his focus during his final year in office.

Randall Luthi is the president of the National Ocean Industries Association.

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