America has tremendous energy resources, but a lot of them sit under federal land. And 94 percent of federal land has been put off-limits to energy development. We have more coal than any other country, but we’re prevented from accessing a lot of it. In Alaska’s vast and frozen ANWR, we could produce an estimated 15 billion gallons of oil annually from an area roughly the size of an airport. Within ANWR, that’s the equivalent of drilling on an area the size of a postage stamp placed on a football field. The new Congress must ease our reliance on foreign oil by opening up ANWR to drilling.
We also need to access our offshore oil reserves that are currently blocked by the federal government. The Interior Department estimates the U.S. continental shelf contains 115 billion barrels of oil and 633 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That’s enough oil to fuel our country for sixteen years and enough natural gas for twenty-five years.
I’m not talking about putting oil rigs on Miami Beach—I’m simply calling for balance. Many people will point to the recent oil spill of the Deepwater Horizon rig off Louisiana as a reason to halt new offshore drilling. As one of the governors who has to deal with this mess, I’m not going to sugarcoat it—the oil spill was a tragedy, costing eleven people their lives. Thousands of square miles of ocean have been contaminated, hundreds of species may be affected, and countless fishermen have been cut off from their livelihoods. We will need to focus state and federal agencies to clean it up and make sure those responsible ultimately pay the bill. However, we shouldn’t overreact to the spill with a knee-jerk move to ban new offshore drilling.
I say let the people of each state choose whether they want offshore drilling, and let them share in the royalties if they do. We’ve been drilling off the Louisiana coast since 1947 and now produce 91 percent of the oil and 72 percent of the natural gas that comes from the Gulf of Mexico. Offshore drilling has its risks, as we’ve seen firsthand in my state. But for Louisiana it’s meant thousands of jobs and billions in revenue to help fund schools and to improve our residents’ lives in many other ways. And it’s meant more domestically produced energy for all of America. If we want to keep America strong and prosperous, we need a policy that aims for energy independence. Forget the self-serving cries from interest groups that want to favor one energy source over the other. The smart thing—the common-sense solution—is to pursue them all.
Adapted from the newly released book Leadership and Crisis (Regnery, 2010) by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.