Time to look inward for energy

Contributed by Senator Danny Verdin

Most Americans are glad to see people in countries like Egypt and Libya standing up for themselves and overthrowing the tyrannical despots that have oppressed them for too long. But we are not happy to see what it is doing to gasoline and diesel prices. Maybe this will be the last straw that spurs our government to finally start meeting more of our energy demands with fuel we produce ourselves.

We can do it. Advances in energy production technology like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have created oil booms in parts of the United States. North Dakota, once a relatively minor source of fossil fuels, has surpassed both Oklahoma and Louisiana to become the nation’s fourth largest oil producer. They are pumping out 350,000 barrels of oil a day and could see that number rise to 700,000 barrels within the next four years. 

That kind of production can not only reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but also bulk up our economy and put American workers back on the job. North Dakota’s unemployment rate is currently 3.9%, the lowest in the nation, and their economy is thriving, providing the state government with a $1 billion surplus this year.

The oil fields of North Dakota are far from our only resource—if the federal government would only get out of the way and allow American energy companies to go to work. The U.S. Mineral Management Service estimates that there are more than 40 billion barrels of technologically recoverable Outer Continental Shelf oil off our various coastlines. That is the equivalent of 13 years worth of total crude oil imports, enough time to dramatically change the way we procure and use energy.

But the federal government says no. In the Gulf of Mexico a defacto moratorium is still in place, and the relentless lobbying of environmental radicals keeps workers out of vast potential fields in Alaska and other regions.

There is no reason for this kind of misguided policy to exist. Fears of offshore spills prompted by BP’s mishap in the Gulf last summer have been more than adequately addressed by the development of the Marine Well Containment System. And even before, the amount of risk we faced from accidents was really very small. The Department of the Interior reports that U.S. companies produced 10.2 billion barrels of oil between 1985 and 2007 with a spill rate of just .0006 percent.

But some lawmakers continue to attack domestic oil and natural gas production, and their efforts are costing us money, fuel and jobs. A recent study of the Alaska OCS found that developing the oil and natural gas resources we know for certain exist there would create 55,000 new jobs every year, generate $145 billion in wages for American workers and increase government revenues by $193 billion over the coming years. Even conservative estimates of combined onshore and offshore development put the employment increase at 160,000 jobs, most of them paying far above average salaries.

It is time for this to stop. We need to make use of the environmentally sound methods the energy industry has developed to bring American production of all kinds of fuels up to optimum levels. The people of the Middle East are speaking up and taking charge of their future.  Why can’t we do the same?

SC Senator Danny Verdin represents District 9, which includes sections of Greenville and Laurens Counties.  He is Chairman of the Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.

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2 Comments to “Time to look inward for energy”

  1. Senator,

    I agree that the United States needs to look inward for energy independence. I don’t think anyone would disagree. However, the disagreement comes in just what KIND of energy, and, how corporations pursue that energy.

    Nuclear power is powerful, but, carries a huge risk. As we watch the situation in Japan, we are reminded just how dangerous it is when not contained safely. And, Senator, make no mistake, safety IS the issue. Just last year we learned that here in South Carolina one of the nuclear energy plants was operating without a viable backup generator. It took them a year to figure out that it was a faulty breaker system? Really???? A full YEAR?

    Oil drilling has its own environmental hazards as we see in the gulf constantly. But, again, we find time and again that the spills are due to corporations shirking safety for the sake of profit. Sure, they pay out millions during a disaster, but, when they are making BILLIONS in profit, much of it subsidized by the government, what’s a few million?

    Coal is the same. Every time a mine collapses, we hear how the company violated safety repeatedly, over the course of years, until finally disaster strikes.

    On the other hand, we hear how solar and wind power won’t provide the pure volume of energy we need. Electric cars can greatly reduce our energy consumption, but, car makers are loath to convert their plants to them where the pure mass production makes them affordable.

    So, our energy needs may be great, this is true. But, every step of the way, Senator, it is the corporations and their thirst for profit that keep us without it. You say it’s the government? Protesters? But, WHY do we protest. The answer is, again, that corporations don’t act responsibly. They have proven it time and again.

    When you, and others in government, DEMAND that corporations act in a manner that is responsible, then we can talk about energy independence.

  2. “Most Americans are glad to see people in countries like Egypt and Libya standing up for themselves and overthrowing the tyrannical despots that have oppressed them for too long”

    I am not certain most Americans will agree with that statement at all when they see these stable tyrannical despots replaced by unstable tyrannical despots. A republican form of government with a smidgen of democracy worked in the Western world because culturally we have grown into it. You cannot forego the representative republic and go straight from despot to democracy and expect good results.

    In this sense I agree with you – we need to look within and determine why it is we need so much oil in the first place. And then perhaps force the DOE to actually help us find alternative sources or better yet eliminate that unconstitutional agency and pass the savings back to the public sector and let innovation figure it out.

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