Wicker Says Energy Production Can Create American Jobs

Domestic Exploration Would Reduce Deficit While Spurring Growth

February 15, 2010

With our nation’s unemployment rate near ten percent, job creation will be a major challenge for Congress this year. In a surprise move last week, Democratic Leader Harry Reid shot down a bi-partisan compromise jobs package negotiated by Sens. Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley, the top members of the Finance Committee. Whatever plan Mr. Reid eventually puts forward will face Senate debate later this month and then have to be merged with a stimulus bill to be written in the House. I hope the end result is an affordable plan I can support.

Unfortunately, all of the versions being floated ignore one of our greatest opportunities for permanent job creation – expanded domestic energy production. Offshore drilling and nuclear energy development represent two of our most promising solutions. They would create American jobs, increase government revenue, and ease our nation off of its costly and dangerous reliance on foreign energy. Additionally, domestic energy investment would accomplish these objectives without adding to the growing federal debt.

                                   Offshore Resources
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that America’s taxpayer-owned offshore lands contain 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. These oil and gas reserves should be enough to power more than 65 million cars for the next six decades and heat 60 million homes for 160 years.

In 2008, Congress finally took the first step toward granting access to these reserves by allowing a decades-old offshore drilling ban to expire. Previously, the ban had prevented oil and gas production off both coasts. However, the Obama administration has effectively continued the ban by stalling the regulatory approval process that is needed before more drilling can begin.

The President should move immediately to cut the remaining red tape. By opening up offshore areas for leasing and exploration, it is estimated that we could create 1.2 million high-paying jobs for American workers and provide an additional $70 billion in annual wages. These offshore oil and gas leases would contribute nearly $275 billion to our economy each year and could bring in more than $2.2 trillion in tax receipts in the long term, helping both state and federal governments.

In addition to tapping into our offshore energy, I also support production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska, which is estimated to hold more than 10 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Production on a tiny fraction of ANWR could produce 1 million barrels of oil per day and can be accomplished without harming the environment. A majority of Alaskans support oil and gas production in ANWR, and it could create another 700,000 American jobs and add $200 billion to government coffers.

                                     Nuclear Power
While we expand domestic oil and gas production, we should also make clean, inexpensive nuclear power a part of our energy portfolio. The first step is to build more nuclear power plants across America, which would be a pollution-free way of generating electricity.
Additionally, the construction of nuclear plants would provide a much needed boost for our economy. The Nuclear Energy Institute estimates that building 45 new nuclear plants in America would generate up to 128,000 construction jobs and create up to 32,000 high paying permanent jobs.

There are private companies interested in getting new reactors on line, but the federal government’s complicated licensing process for nuclear power plants is a huge impediment to investment. If we streamline the licensing process, construction can begin on these plants more quickly. This would allow tens of thousands of American workers to play an active role in building the national infrastructure for clean, safe nuclear power that would help free the U.S. from its dependence on foreign energy.

These ideas are straightforward, sensible ways to create American jobs while also making progress toward the national priority of energy independence. To that end, I have cosponsored legislation that incorporates all of these proposals. The No Cost Stimulus Act, authored by Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, would spur job-creating energy production and investment without adding to the national debt. Expanding domestic energy production would create quality, stable jobs and help strengthen the economy.