After the results are tallied across the nation and new members are sworn in, the Congress and administration will begin to forge their policy agendas for President Obama’s final two years in office. And on the top of that priority list should be energy. For far too many years, Congress has been at an impasse on issues of strong bipartisan support, including recent measures on energy efficiency and Keystone XL.
While our policymakers in Washington, D.C., may think that energy has become an overly partisan issue, voters across the nation broadly support many energy-related measures.
That’s why in a number of recent competitive races across the nation, energy issues mattered to voters. Indeed, opinion polling conducted for Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) showed that the Keystone XL Pipeline and Arctic energy were at the forefront of voters’ minds.
Interestingly, voter polls conducted in three states with pivotal U.S. Senate races found strong support for allowing oil and natural gas production in U.S. waters inside the Arctic Circle. Why would voters in the lower 48 care about offshore energy in Alaska when it is so many miles away?
For starters, elections have consequences. Decisions about the future of offshore drilling in the Arctic and elsewhere will be made in coming months and years by the federal government, with strong input by Congress and coastal governors. And these voters clearly understand Alaska’s strategic value to our nation’s energy diversity, which empowers our national security and economic security.
Americans know that the short-term and long-term future of offshore drilling in coastal areas like the Arctic, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic and elsewhere rests firmly in the hands of our newly elected leaders.
Consequently, the federal government’s decisions on offshore energy production have sweeping impacts. After all, the Alaskan Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) holds substantial influence on the future of U.S. economic and energy security as well as global geopolitical relations. U.S. Arctic waters – with an estimated 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, much of which is in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas – remain one of the country’s most prolific energy reserves.
In fact, more onshore and offshore production, accompanied by the right balance of policies and regulations, could mean that new Alaskan production might reach 1.6 million barrels of energy per day by 2030. Offshore development could also generate $193 billion in new revenue and 55,000 jobs nationwide.
To illustrate the magnitude of these resources, consider this: Thirty billion barrels of Alaskan oil could fuel every domestic flight for over 120 years. And 141 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could heat every American house for 34 years. Simply put, American consumers need Alaska.
In order to further the nation’s energy and national security objectives, exploration of Alaska and its Arctic waters must remain a dominant figure in the nation’s energy equation. The state’s vast deposits of natural resources enable economic growth, bolster trade, reduce the nation’s debt, lower consumer energy costs, and ensure safe, affordable energy for all Americans, even those in the lower 48 states.
Now that Election Day has passed and voters have determined the new makeup of the Congress, American consumers need to remind their new representatives of the role that they will now need to play to support American energy self-sufficiency. Their future policy agendas and votes in the next two years will determine whether the national economy will be strengthened via federal policies that encourage offshore energy or hampered by overly reactionary, hyperbolic, exaggerated fears over offshore exploration.
The U.S. can and must be a leader in counteracting environmental challenges with science, technology, and smart, thoughtful policies that expand domestic energy production.
As we look towards the start of the Congress, CEA hopes that our policymakers remember that party affiliation should not matter when it comes to meeting our nation’s energy needs, growing our economy and ensuring a diverse and sustainable energy future. For too long, some have attempted to create a false choice pitting the environment against energy production of all types. Congress should be above this fray. We can and must protect our environment and develop our energy resources. This should be something on which Democrats and Republicans should agree.
David Holt is president of Consumer Energy Alliance