The Russian invasion of Ukraine has shaken America back to reality. An act of such blatant aggression has undermined international order and challenged the sense of safety and security we had slowly regained after Sept. 11.
As our leaders contemplate petitioning countries like Venezuela and Iran for more oil, one significant lesson has been the need for the United States to reaffirm its role as a leading energy producer.
Unfortunately, this message is not clear to everyone. A few weeks ago, a U.S. congressional leader signed an op-ed published in the U.K.’s The Guardian arguing that the call for increased domestic energy development was nothing more than a marketing ploy by America’s oil and gas industry to promote a drilling free-for-all. After scolding the industry for allegedly taking advantage of the tragedy unfolding in Eastern Europe, the author asserted that the simple answer to our energy problem is instead to immediately wean ourselves off fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy. This is an unrealistic and dangerous approach.
Here are the facts. Energy is the basis for any economy, and no modern society can function without a secure source of energy for electrical generation, heat, transportation, and manufacturing. At present, the majority of that energy comes from fossil fuels, predominantly oil and natural gas. Renewables can, and should, be a part of the energy mix, but they have natural physical and economic limitations, which keep them from making up more than 20% of electricity generation.
Nuclear energy should be part of the discussion, but while nuclear doesn’t present the same physical limitations that solar and wind do, the political and financial obstacles are just as real and just as inhibiting. For at least the foreseeable future, when we talk about energy we are talking in large part about oil and gas.
The good news is that the United States has plenty of it. Western Colorado, where I serve as a county commissioner, is home to some of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas. America is the world’s number one oil and gas producer, and periodically finds itself as the world’s greatest exporter.
Combining our resources with that of our closest friend and neighbor, Canada, would not only keep ourselves powered for many decades to come, but much of Europe, the Pacific Rim, and other parts of the world as well.
The bad news is that even with all of these resources, we still find ourselves tied inextricably to foreign sources of oil, simply because of politics. The policies of the Biden administration have served to hamper our domestic production. Shifting our national approach, and adopting policies like allowing new leases on federal lands, permitting the construction of energy pipelines from Canada, and approving a new five-year offshore leasing plan would go a long way to reanimating our energy sector. Sadly, it seems the administration is content to fiddle as Rome burns.
Some Democratic leaders have inaccurately claimed the American energy industry has thousands of unused drilling permits on federal land and offshore waters. This is misleading and a distraction from the administration’s insistence of blocking U.S. natural gas and oil production since Day One of the Biden administration. In reality, there are 100,000 producing wells on federal lands, while the 9,000 permits still in process to start production represent a very small fraction of the well count. Leases are issued before exploration, and not every acreage of leased land has resources to tap into successfully.
The Biden administration has time to reverse course and support the U.S. energy industry to work toward achieving energy security, while replacing Russian and other sources of foreign oil and gas in overseas markets.
America’s oil and gas industry has the ability to provide thousands of jobs and renewed economic growth with the necessary support. Our country’s energy security should be our nation’s leaders’ top priority, and it is time they allow the U.S. energy industry to tap into its fullest potential.
Scott McInnis previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives and is a Mesa County commissioner.
Scott McInnis previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives on the Committee on Natural Resources and is currently a Mesa County commissioner.