Guest Commentary: Domestic Energy Production Key to Renewed Prosperity

HODGKINS:  More domestic energy production means we are less dependent on the Middle East for the energy resources we need to fuel our economy and ensure our National Security

The men and women who roam the halls of power in the United States and Congress and the White House face a litany of impending, important, unavoidable challenges.

A struggling economy that is beset by unrelenting unemployment.  Budget deficits and unfunded government commitments as far as the eye can see.  Significant national security risks in a world that is as dangerous as it ever has been.   

The degree to which we are able to overcome these challenges will play a primary role in determining America’s place in the world – indeed, the degree to which we are a prosperous and thriving people – for the next 50 years, and maybe even longer.  None of these challenges are new, but all loom large.  The time for action on each is now.

Now consider this: each of the major national challenges I outlined – joblessness, federal budget deficits, grave national security risks – can all be significantly addressed by a renewed commitment on the part of the American government to develop our oil and natural gas resources.

Think about it some more:

More domestic energy production means dramatically more jobs – economic recovery can be the result.

More domestic energy production means a dramatic influx of new government revenue – diminished budget shortfalls, without higher taxes, can be the effect.

And more domestic energy production means that this great nation of ours is less dependent on despots and unreliable sources in the Middle East for the energy resources we need to fuel our economy and ensure our National Security – an America less tied to the Middle East and other unreliable sources of energy could be ours.

As a retired Major General in the United States Air Force, it was a real honor for me to return to Washington, DC to meet with Colorado’s Congressional Delegation to convey this important message to our Congressional Leaders.  I was travelling with a group of retired military officials, business leaders and average citizens in an outreach effort organized by the American Petroleum Institute and the Rocky Mountain Energy Forum.

My trip included meetings with most of the Colorado delegation and/or their staffs.  Meetings with Senator Mark Udall’s senior staff representatives and Congressman Cory Gardner stood out – Congressman Gardner and Senator Udall’s staff were frank, accessible and knowledgeable.

More than anything else, our goal with the meetings was to convey a real urgency to our elected leaders. While the idea of energy independence in North America has been something of a remote, inaccessible academic talking point for many years, new developments in oil and gas technology that have opened a world of new resources in the United States and Canada create a very clear path to energy freedom.  In fact, with four very simple public policy steps, North American energy independence and significantly enhance National Security could be ours in less than 15 years.

So much for the talking points.  Energy independence can be ours, if only our leaders choose it.

The four policy steps are straightforward and all are rooted in common sense.  They are:

Provide access to domestic energy reserves that have been placed off-limits;

Return Gulf of Mexico permitting rates to pre-moratorium levels;

Put a moratorium on moratoriums and other new oil and gas restrictions; and

Partner with Canada to develop new pipeline capacity, including construction of the XL Pipeline, which would enable the US to import more Canadian crude for the benefit of American motorists.

As I noted earlier, the net effect of these policy changes would accrue to the benefit of the nation in ways far beyond energy policy, and inject significant life into our Nation’s struggling economy, as well as bolster the Department of Defense and our National Security posture.

The oil and gas industry already pays more than $176 billion in salary and wages each year, and under these policies, the energy employment cash cow in America would grow.  In all, API projects that 1.4 million new jobs could be created in the energy sector if the federal government would adopt these and other sensible energy policies.

Last and most important to me as a one who spent his professional life in the military, achieving full energy independence through the adoption of smart domestic energy policies would disentangle America from many conflicts and controversies across the world, and at the same time would ensure reliable sources of fuel for our military should our Nation find itself in a major conflict. That is a prize that makes the objective of energy independence of the utmost importance all by itself.

All in all, the trip with Rocky Mountain Energy Forum was a successful one.  The message was delivered — energy independence is attainable; and energy independence is good for our economy, our budget, and our national security.  For the good of the country, we should all hope they were listening.

Major General Bill Hodgkins (Ret.) is a former Air Force officer with over 33 years of service who served as Director of Plans, North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

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