Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich is no stranger to the national discussion on American energy policy. On December 5, he shared his ideas with lawmakers, academics, and business leaders at the Governor’s Energy Summit in Jackson. The annual event, which was launched last year, is designed to strengthen Mississippi’s energy sector and the economic growth it drives. I was honored to introduce Newt as this year’s keynote speaker.
We are fortunate to have state leadership that recognizes Mississippi’s robust energy resources and technological expertise, as well as the significant job-creating opportunities associated with energy production. Efforts to realize the state’s energy-producing potential will help more Mississippians gain high-quality, high-paying jobs – boosting the bottom lines of families, businesses, and local governments. According to recent figures, Mississippi’s energy sector is responsible for more than 22,000 jobs, with salaries averaging $63,456 – nearly double the average wages of other private sector industries.
The future of U.S. energy, however, is not always guided by pro-growth policy. The Obama Administration’s misguided attempts to over-regulate energy have thrown a wet blanket on economic development and burdened consumers with higher prices. Rather than adding more harmful red tape, the federal government should allow the private sector to pursue a truly “all-of-the-above” approach. A diverse energy portfolio would have a far-reaching impact, putting more Americans to work and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
We know the resources are there: Recent reports predict America will soon become the world’s leading oil producer. According to the latest survey by Canada’s Fraser Institute, an independent public policy group, Mississippi is one of the world’s best places for oil and gas investment.
And yet, the Obama Administration continues to impose an ideologically-driven energy agenda that picks winners and losers among energy technologies. New EPA rules on carbon dioxide emissions, for example, have been designed to create an unattainable standard, manipulating the market and precluding new coal-fired plants from opening. The overreach echoes something President Obama said in 2008: “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them.”
Stalling Keystone XL
The still-unapproved Keystone XL pipeline is another glaring misstep in the Administration’s energy agenda. Despite the project’s potential to create thousands of new U.S. jobs and boost energy security, the President continues to hold up a decision on Keystone’s permit, which has now been under review by the State Department for more than five years.
The pipeline is a target of radical environmentalists, whose White House protests prompted the Administration to postpone a decision until after last year’s presidential election. Even now, despite the State Department’s conclusion that the project would have no significant impact on the climate, the President is still playing politics. The question is not whether North American energy will be developed but whether these resources will benefit the United States instead of countries like China.
It is clear that America’s energy future goes hand in hand with its economic future. Despite federal power grabs and missed opportunities, forums at the state level, such as the Governor’s Energy Summit, help put constructive ideas into motion. I am excited that Mississippi is poised to play a dynamic role in meeting tomorrow’s energy needs.