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Energy Rhetoric No Solution for Rising Gas Prices

October 22, 2012
Weekly Columns

In a recent speech, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the case that energy policy plays a crucial role in both America's national security and our economic security.  Speaking at Georgetown University on October 18, Secretary Clinton stated, "Today, energy cuts across the entirety of U.S. foreign policy. It is a matter of national security and global stability. It is at the heart of the global economy."  Clinton emphasized that "energy is essential to how we will power our economy and manage our environment in the 21st century."

This is absolutely correct.  Unfortunately, the message doesn't seem to have reached liberals in Congress or Secretary Clinton's colleagues in the Obama administration.  In both groups, lofty energy rhetoric is almost always directly contradicted by actions that undermine American energy independence.

Just weeks before Clinton's remarks, a group of Senate Democrats launched yet another effort to deny Americans access to our own energy resources.  In a letter to Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar, a group of six Senate Democrats urged the agency to halt leases for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean off the north coast of Alaska.  Shell Oil was scheduled to begin drilling this year but regulatory obstacles, combined with bad weather, have already pushed the project until next year.   The senators hope to turn the temporary delay into a permanent one by using a favorite strategy: calling for more research.  This is the same excuse used to hold up the Keystone pipeline, one of the most exhaustively researched and approved energy projects ever.  Just as with Keystone, critics of Arctic Circle drilling are citing a problem that doesn't exist.  Former Interior Department drilling and safety chief Michael Bromwich says, "The lease-sale schedule as to Alaska was specifically crafted to take into account the need to have additional research done before those Arctic lease sales move forward."  In fact, Shell has already conducted extensive research, and drilling is an essential next step in the research process outlined by Interior's offshore leasing plan.  As Secretary Salazar stated, "If we are to responsibly develop resources in frontier areas, we must expand exploration activities."  An estimated 24 billion barrels of oil await discovery off the Alaskan coast if opponents will allow the exploration process to move forward.

The cumulative effect of years of such obstruction is evident with every trip to the gas station.  Gas prices rose 7 percent in September on top of a 9 percent increase in August.  These price increases have a ripple effect throughout the sluggish economy, driving up the Consumer Price Index and forcing Americans to cut back on spending in other areas, which in turn leads to decreased profits and hiring capacity across a range of businesses.  President Obama may continue to peddle the myth that energy production is up on his watch, but gas prices and production statistics indicate otherwise.  According to Washington Post fact checkers, Obama's own Energy Information Administration confirms that production on public lands is down 14 percent for oil and 9 percent for natural gas compared to 2010.

Whether accurate or misleading, whether delivered by the president or his cabinet, rhetoric alone will not lower gas prices.  Only action to unleash American energy exploration and end our dependence on foreign oil can break the crippling cycle of rising gas prices.