During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Senator Barack Obama boldly proclaimed that energy policy would be a “leading priority” of his presidency, promising to expand energy production and create millions of new energy jobs. Yet, over the past four years, President Obama has failed to implement the comprehensive energy plan that he had once promised. Our country still remains largely reliant on foreign oil – an addiction that Obama has labeled as a risk to our national security. Unemployment has remained static, hovering around 8 percent, and Obama has admitted that “[w]e still don’t have all the energy policies in place that we need to free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil.”
The administration’s lackluster energy policies have emphasized an unwavering support for green energy, resulting in billions of dollars being directed by the government to now-bankrupt companies in the form of stimulus, loans, tax credits, and subsidies. In fact, CBS News reported that at least 12 clean energy companies are facing financial difficulties after collectively being approved for more than $6.5 billion in federal assistance, and that five of those companies have filed for bankruptcy. And it should come as no surprise that despite the billions of dollars spent on green energy projects, the president has only increased renewable energy production by 25 percent, falling far short of his 2008 campaign goal of doubling our use of renewable energy.
Fortunately, there are several initiatives that the White House can undertake to stimulate American jobs and increase our nation’s supply of energy. To start, the president can generate an immediate impact by approving the Keystone XL pipeline. If constructed, the Keystone XL pipeline would bring heavy crude down from Canada for refining on the Texas Gulf Coast. The Canadian ambassador has estimated that the pipeline would result in the creation of as many as 20,000 direct jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs. Further, the pipeline would allow America to receive safe energy from a neighboring ally, decreasing our reliance on oil from unstable countries in the Middle East and ultimately giving America greater energy security.
Obama has delayed the project mostly because of dubious environmental concerns. However, the State Department has already stated that the project would not result in any additional emissions because even if Keystone were not built, Canada would export the oil elsewhere and the emissions would be released into the environment. In fact, Canada has already threatened to sell the oil elsewhere, likely China, if the United States does not act. It is imperative that Obama approves this project before we lose out on more American jobs and greater energy security.
We also need to act quickly to expedite the growth of domestic gas and oil production. During his tenure, the president has overseen an increase in production of oil and gas, but this is largely due to recent technological advancements made in hydraulic fracturing, which has allowed the United States to extract natural gas found in deep shale formations several thousand feet below the Earth’s surface. Natural gas is one of our country’s most abundant resources. The Energy Information Administration estimates that 2,203 trillion cubic feet of natural gas is available for recovery in the United States. Despite the significant quantity of attainable energy, the Institute for Energy Research notes that the rate of federal government leasing of its onshore lands for oil and gas development has “slowed by about half” under the Obama administration. Obama’s policies have also prevented energy exploration in more than 85 percent of all offshore areas – leaving a vast amount of energy unharnessed.
In truth, the White House has hampered the growth of domestic energy production using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to impose burdensome regulations on the gas, oil and coal industry. We should be concerned about the environmental impact of our policies when seeking out energy, but as the Heritage Foundation has found, states already successfully regulate fracking, making federal regulations on the technique unnecessary and extremely burdensome. As for coal, the EPA has purposefully launched an aggressive campaign against the industry, imposing unseemly amounts of regulations, driving costs up and forcing many coal companies to close in the process. The Obama administration is using regulatory restrictions to hurt the coal industry, and American jobs and energy security are among the casualties. The EPA needs to be reined in and we must open up more federal onshore lands for oil and gas development in states like Alaska, so that we can fully utilize all of our available resources.
Lastly, we must do more to construct safe nuclear power plants. The president has previously touted nuclear power as a clean source of energy, but has only had marginal success in expanding its use. Currently, there are five reactors under construction and he has announced funding for commercialized small, modular reactors in the United States. Yet, nuclear reactors only generate 19 percent of the nation’s electricity. President Obama can do much more to propel nuclear energy forward, such as approving more applicants seeking permits for new nuclear plants and reforming the restrictive U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). This is an avenue that presents a real opportunity for success, as nuclear power garners bipartisan support. The White House should take advantage of this consensus and move forward more aggressively.
As a whole, Obama’s energy policy has been unfocused and even sclerotic at times. One former Obama adviser even admitted that “we have absolutely no energy policy.” A comprehensive energy plan that advances nuclear energy, expands domestic energy production, including natural gas, oil and coal, reins in overly zealous regulators and approves the Keystone Pipeline will help grow American jobs, put us back on a path toward prosperity and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, which serves as both an economic and national security risk.