Cliff May
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But re-opening the Gulf for energy production, he said, would “create thousands of new jobs in nearly every state across the country, spur economic growth and enhance our national security.” More precisely, he cited a recent study concluding that increasing permit approvals for oil and gas exploration in the Gulf would “create 230,000 new jobs …bolster U.S. gross domestic product by $44 billion and generate nearly $12 billion in revenue to state and federal treasuries. In addition, opening the Gulf would increase domestic oil production by more than 400,000 barrels per day, reducing U.S. spending on imported oil by $15 billion.”

The Gulf is not the only area where vast amounts of energy are waiting to be tapped. The development of new technologies and techniques, such as “horizontal drilling" and hydraulic fracturing, have made it possible to recover vast amounts of oil and natural gas from the Bakken oil fields of Montana and North Dakota, and the Marcellus Shale in the Appalachian Basin.

But when Harold Hamm, the discoverer of the Bakken oil fields, recently told President Obama about “the revolution in the oil and gas industry and how we have the capacity to produce enough oil to enable America to replace OPEC,” Obama was dismissive, as the Wall Street Journal’s Steve Moore reported:

"[Obama] turned to me and said, 'Oil and gas will be important for the next few years. But we need to go on to green and alternative energy. [Energy] Secretary [Steven] Chu has assured me that within five years, we can have a battery developed that will make a car with the equivalent of 130 miles per gallon.'" Mr. Hamm holds his head in his hands and says, "Even if you believed that, why would you want to stop oil and gas development? It was pretty disappointing."

Disastrous might be the more precise term if America’s energy, economic and national security policies boil down to this: waiting for the development of new, improved batteries that can be used in electric vehicles which we hope will replace the existing fleet of gasoline-powered internal combustion engines, thereby reducing the funding we are providing to our sworn enemies at some point in the future. That’s like dealing with a house on fire by waiting for a blizzard.

As part of this hope-for-change policy, the Obama administration also has been stalling on approvals for the Keystone pipeline, a privately funded project that will bring oil to the US from the tar sands of Western Canada, creating 20,000 jobs with no taxpayer money.

And the White House has spent no political capital pushing for a minor and inexpensive modification of new automobiles that would allow motorists to fill their tanks not only with gasoline but with a variety of liquid fuels, including methanol, which can be made from natural gas, coal, urban garbage, and agricultural and forestry waste, and ethanol which can be made from sugarcane and many other crops that can be grown not just in American but in parts of the developing world (where little development is currently taking place).

Which of these energy sources can best reinvigorate the economy and enhance America’s security? All of the above: Let a thousand offshore oil rigs bloom, let a thousand distilleries turn waste into fuels, let horizontal drillers drill and frackers frac, let entrepreneurs gamble and consumers choose, let a freer market pick winners and losers – without subsidies or tariffs.

The alternative is to continue waiting and watching as rising oil and gas prices hobble job creation and economic growth. The alternative is to continue sending trillions of dollars to mullahs, sheikhs and caudillos who decide how much to spend on terrorist groups and, in the case of Iran, nuclear weapons development.

Making policy is challenging when progress on one front means losing ground on another. But right now a single set of policies could strengthen us economically and make us more secure. What we need are leaders willing to demonstrate that Khomeini was wrong: Americans can do a damned thing.

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Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.