Gasoline prices continued to rise across the nation last week, putting the cost per gallon to more than one dollar over this time last year. As rising energy prices threaten economic recovery, Congress has an obligation to examine Obama administration policies that, taken together, reveal the pattern of a concerted campaign to raise the price of energy through blocking, delaying, or revoking project permits and approvals.
From the campaign trail, then Senator Obama spoke of increased electricity prices as a means for advancing his agenda, noting that costs would "necessarily skyrocket." Energy Secretary Stephen Chu was equally blunt. "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe [currently $8 a gallon]," Mr. Chu announced. Last year, President Obama declared that America must be the nation that leads the "clean energy economy." [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on gas prices.]
So far, pushing policies that raise energy costs and bolster the case for currently unaffordable green energy sources is one promise for change that the administration seems intent to keep no matter what it costs. Between February and April of this year, oil spot prices shot from an average $83 per barrel to $110 per barrel. The Energy Information Administration now predicts that average retail gasoline prices will increase from $2.78 per gallon in 2010 to $3.66 per gallon next year. The American people are entitled to the facts about policy decisions that raise energy costs and help the administration push expensive energy alternatives favored by environmental special interests.
Even as compliance costs for traditional and affordable sources of energy rise, the administration's willingness to promulgate even tighter regulatory controls and raise taxes on oil and gas producers rolls along. In his fiscal year 2012 budget, President Obama requested more than $60 billion in direct tax and fee increases on American energy production over the next 10 years. These measures aren't even aimed just at the largest oil companies that do much of their work abroad, but at smaller domestic-based firms that are key to achieving increased production and are responsible for 95 percent of domestic oil and gas wells. Many will be forced to raise prices, reduce their workforce, or scrap plans for new drilling. All at a time when America needs greater domestic production and more good-paying jobs to meet the challenges of the global economy. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on energy policy.]
Our economic growth and ability to create more jobs depends on our ability to develop and deploy innovative technologies to harvest our vast oil and gas reserves. The discoveries of enormous recoverable oil and gas in places like Pennsylvania, North Dakota, California, and Oklahoma have made energy independence a real possibility and no longer a distant dream. The United States has approximately 2,552 trillion cubic feet of potential natural gas resources—enough to last 110 years at current usage rates. By 2015, fields in Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, and elsewhere could yield as much as 2 million barrels of crude per day, more than is now produced in the entire Gulf of Mexico. Developing these fields could reduce our oil imports by 60 percent in the year 2020.
Furthermore, promising technologies like hydraulic fracturing—which the EPA has already concluded "poses little or no threat" to the environment—and horizontal drilling are already yielding tremendous results. And with lessons learned from last year's Deepwater Horizon disaster, drilling in the Gulf of Mexico can proceed more safely and efficiently, allowing the Gulf Coast community to finally experience the economic revitalization that it desperately needs.
Greater energy independence will require increasing our domestic production, plain and simple. We must move toward greater self-reliance by strategically utilizing our own oil and gas reserves, both onshore and offshore. New energy technologies must continue to move forward—when they become economically viable sources of affordable energy, their use will increase. Until then, pursuing policies that raise the cost of available carbon-based energy may make expensive green sources seem more affordable, but it comes at great cost to our economy and private sector job creation.