Politics & Policy

A New National Energy Policy

States must lead the way on energy production.

For far too long, the United States has lacked a national energy policy that fosters domestic oil and gas production. With rapidly escalating fuel prices, the time for leadership is now, and Americans rightly demand that decisive action be taken. Americans pay an average of $3.98 per gallon for gas, and further price hikes could reach or exceed July 2008’s all-time high of $4.11, given the continuing political unrest in the oil-producing regions of the Middle East and North Africa.

After two and a half years of federal policy aimed at locking up domestic energy resources and decreasing domestic production, President Obama announced a shift this past week. The administration will now hold annual lease sales in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska and create an interagency task force to coordinate permit approvals. This shift is a step in the right direction, and I hope the administration will follow through.

Unfortunately, while rising gas prices force Americans to make difficult economic choices, our nation’s leaders continue to miss opportunities to grow domestic oil production, spur significant economic benefits, and foster job creation.

The good news is that the United States is a country rich in energy resources. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the state of Alaska alone has approximately 40 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and another 236 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — massive energy reserves to power America as it transitions during the coming years to a renewable-energy future. Other states also have extensive untapped energy resources as well.

As governor of Alaska, my goal is to increase Alaska’s oil and gas production in concrete, measurable ways. Personally, I agree with the business maxim “if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it.” Therefore, I have set a goal that by 2020, Alaska will increase oil throughput in the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) from 580,000 barrels per day to 1 million barrels per day. This is an ambitious goal, but Alaska’s vast reserves make it a clearly achievable one — if America revamps its excessive and overly bureaucratic federal regulatory policies.

The effect of those policies has been to radically curtail domestic production — from 10 million barrels per day in recent years to 7 million barrels per day today. U.S. Department of Energy data indicate that last year’s drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico cost the Gulf states thousands of jobs and an overall decline in production of approximately 190,000 barrels per day.

Declining investment by oil producers is another effect of these policies. As federal regulatory impediments restrict access to domestic resources, oil companies take their record profits overseas, investing in Brazil, Russia, Mexico, and Canada. Instead of encouraging exploration and production here at home, America’s present regulatory policies serve to discourage this investment and the jobs it provides to American workers. Ironically, such policies force Americans to purchase their oil and gas from foreign countries, at higher prices.

One state acting alone has limited impact; however, 50 states working together for a common purpose can move the nation forward — not by small steps, but by leaps. For this reason, I have sent a letter to all governors asking that they join Alaska in taking steps to increase domestic energy production with the resources they have in their own backyards.

I have urged each state to analyze its resource base and identify state and federal policies that delay resource production and prevent new investment. My hope is that each state will develop a plan to overcome regulatory and investment challenges and set a bold goal of increasing energy production. Our collective efforts will significantly reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, while at the same time promoting jobs for American families and reducing fuel prices.

Alaska also intends to work through its bipartisan congressional delegation to sponsor federal legislation that will streamline federal permitting without sacrificing essential environmental protections, institute time limits for permit processing and review, and create financial and other incentives for the development of our nation’s natural resources. We ask Congress to once again acknowledge the importance of TAPS as a critical national energy and security asset. We will seek legislation to encourage the responsible development of Alaska’s North Slope reserves, with the goal of delivering 1 million barrels of American oil each day through the existing Trans Alaska Pipeline to the citizens of our nation.

Improving America’s energy security is not a partisan issue; it is an issue of fundamental interest to every state, and every American citizen.

— Sean Parnell, a Republican, is the governor of Alaska.

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