In the early 1970s, America’s dependence on foreign oil was a little over 20 percent. Today, our dependence on foreign oil is over 65 percent. We have become more and more energy dependent because we have never had a serious energy independence strategy, and we still do not have one.
Energy independence is within our grasp because we have plenty of natural resources. We have billions of barrels of oil, plenty of natural gas reserves, more coal than any other country in the world, lots of places we could build dams for hydroelectricity and some of the safest nuclear power technology in the world.
Wind and solar energy development is not going to get us to energy independence. Studies such as the Department of Energy’s “Billion Ton Study” have shown that those two sources could at best provide 5 percent of our energy needs combined.
But by maximizing all of our other domestic energy resources, we could become energy-independent. This would not only help to keep down the cost of gasoline and the cost of nearly everything we buy, but it would also be a boost to our economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. But most importantly, energy independence would keep us from being vulnerable to the current instability in the Middle East or the whims of OPEC.
But to become energy-independent, we would have to reject the false premise that America’s high energy consumption is at odds with conservation, or that we will cause irreversible harm to our planet. To say that we will cause irreversible harm to the planet by using our natural resources responsibly is like saying that man never should have discovered fire in the first place.
Natural resources are there for a reason: to use them! That’s why they are natural! The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), oil reserves off our coasts, oil shale areas out west and even nuclear power development can create a path to energy independence.
The area proposed for production in ANWR, for example, comprises only 0.08 percent of the 19 million acres of the refuge, and it is estimated to contain at least 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Allowing drilling there would not be an environmental hazard using today’s technology. And if any caribou got lost near that less-than-two-acre carve-out of ANWR, I seriously doubt that they would even notice or care.
And yes, accidents do happen. We usually learn from them to help minimize future accidents. That’s common sense. But we do not need to go overboard with excessive regulations after an unfortunate accident to make the approval processes even slower.
Exploration and production of natural gas from shale oil deposits represent another huge, untapped opportunity. The technology to safely extract natural gas from our enormous oil shale reserves has never been better. But here again, the environmentalists always scream that it’s the end of the world, and then some gutless elected officials kowtow to their wishes for more regulations.
So why are we not on a path to energy independence? It’s simply because there are too many regulations slowing down the process and discouraging businesses from making investments. Illogical moratoriums, excessive federal regulations and environmental extremists who influence weak legislators are holding America hostage to foreign oil.
A revitalized and responsibly unleashed energy sector could be a significant economic stimulus to our economy.
Working families can’t afford to spend more of their discretionary income on gasoline and energy costs, especially in a stalled economy.
America can’t afford to continue spending billions of dollars to buy something that we can produce right here at home if we stop sitting on it. We must stop making other countries rich at our expense.
It’s not just economic. It is common sense and a matter of national security.
Herman Cain is a former CEO, a radio talk show host on AM 750 and 95.5 FM WSB in Atlanta, and a Fox News contributor.