You probably didn’t realize it or may not have heard anything about it, but we celebrated American Energy Freedom Day on October 1. On that day, the congressional ban on oil shale exploration and offshore drilling expired, opening access to an estimated 14 billion barrels of oil and nearly 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the deep waters off our nation’s coast. Additionally, an estimated two trillion barrels of oil shale in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming have now been unlocked – more than three times the oil reserves in Saudi Arabia.
This couldn’t have come at a better time. Our nation currently spends $700 billion each year on foreign energy. That is a staggering amount of money, especially considering the economic challenges and uncertainties we now face. The achievement of American Energy Freedom Day means we are now on a path to using more of our own energy while stopping the export of billions of our dollars to energy-rich countries overseas. The result will be a safer country and a strong economy, both good news for Americans.
UNLOCKING AMERICA’S ENERGY
For over 20 years, anti-drilling members of Congress were successful in blocking access to our offshore energy reserves. Each year, they included a ban in legislation that funded our government, in effect keeping our nation’s vast energy reserves under lock and key. This year, as people across the country faced $4 per gallon gasoline for the first time, the political dynamic in Washington changed. Led by the demands of millions of Americans – including tens of thousands across Mississippi – Congress finally relented. The drilling ban was not included in this year’s spending legislation, allowing it to expire on October 1.
HISTORY OF SUPPORT
I have always been a supporter of increased drilling, even when it wasn’t politically expedient to do so and, at times, when it meant I had to go against the leaders in my own party. This year, as the Congress debated whether or not to extend the ban on offshore drilling, I helped spearhead the effort to increase production of American-made energy. I joined 38 of my Senate colleagues in writing leadership, urging that they not renew the offshore ban. Additionally, in the days before the October 1 expiration, I co-chaired a hearing to discuss the need to produce more of America’s offshore oil and gas reserves. The experts who testified at our hearing told us not only of the great amounts of untapped American energy, but also of the improved technology that allows us to drill today in an environmentally sound way.
ALL OF THE ABOVE
We may not be able to drill ourselves out of our energy problems, but drilling more now will help us ultimately achieve energy independence. Our country needs to undertake an “all of the above” energy strategy that includes increased drilling and using those oil and gas resources as a bridge to the future. At the same time, we also need to be looking to the future by investing in alternative and renewable energy sources like biofuels, clean coal, and plug-in electric car technology.
Now that the ban on offshore oil and gas and oil shale has expired, Congress must continue working to ensure we can access these resources quickly and safely. Doing so will help secure our energy future and keep our nation and its economy strong.